Chelsea believes veteran knowledge will convert to success

Published 8:37 pm Tuesday, January 30, 2024

By TYLER RALEY | Special to the Reporter

The Chelsea Hornets are striving for major improvements in the 2024 season, and the squad believes that they have what it takes to lay a good foundation for future teams.

Following a 10-12-2 year in which they missed the state playoffs in 2023, Allison Gooch and her players know the expectations of each other and feel like it will translate into better performance.

“I think we’ve got a really good group this year,” Gooch said. “We have lots of young talent that’s coming in and I think that our group is almost becoming core. In terms of our chemistry and what we’re trying to accomplish, I think our goals are pretty solidified. I think that we have a lot of players that are willing to work for each other and we have a really good mindset throughout the team. I definitely feel like we are going to be better than we were last year.”

That feeling has spread around all of the members on this team, and they all desire to achieve the goals that they have set for this season. Those goals: consistency, passing fitness tests and most importantly, winning an area game for the first time in two years.

For the veterans on this team, that all ties into having great communication, and senior captain Anna Nettuno definitely believes that the Hornets will perform better because they have exactly that.

“I think we’ve definitely gotten closer together. We focus a lot on our team chemistry,” senior captain Anna Nettuno said. “We love each other outside the field and I think that could translate to working well together on the field.”

A huge part of that team chemistry will result from the passing around of leadership throughout the team. Most of that leadership comes from players like Nettuno and fellow senior Makenzie Whitehurst, but it also falls into the hands of some of the younger players.

Gooch believes that having a well-rounded role of taking charge and leading will lead to better relationships through all facets of the sport that her team strives to get better at.

“I think we do a good job in our leadership of trying to spread it around and try to make even some of our younger players feel like they can lead,” Gooch said. “I think that our seniors do a great job of being receptive and not necessarily wearing that, ‘Well, I’m a senior, what I say goes,’ attitude.

“I think our seniors, in some ways, serve our underclassmen more than they do dictate them, and I think that comes with our team chemistry.”

All of this will lead to what the Hornets hope is a more aggressive offense. They want to create more chances and win the possession battle against its opponents with many of their key players.

That all begins with the team defending well on the other end of the field, but as Nettuno points out, that portion of the team has looked very strong so far in training.

“I think our backline, including Isabelle Willis, Ellen Mckinney, Laura Russell, they’re definitely going to be super strong back there – good pace, super fast,” Nettuno said. “I also think our midfield, we have some really talented players – Natalie Peacock, Gabi Guillen, Marley Brown. We have strength really all over the field.”

With so many veterans returning for the 2024 season, Gooch loves what the future holds for this team. It holds a lot of significance for her and that is part of why she loves coaching.

“I like the challenge. I feel like every day is a new opportunity, every day is a challenge, because I never know what I’m going to get with them,” Gooch said. “They are a fun, fun bunch to coach and it’s really nice to see the growth that she’s talking about from the freshman year to the senior. This senior class is who I started with on JV, so it’s really been fun for me to watch them develop and help them in their journey.”

The ultimate goal for these players is to build a great foundation for the future teams of Chelsea Hornet soccer. They hope to set expectations that will help them grow. This team knows, however, that every year is a fresh start and they can achieve greatness for themselves.

“We just work really hard as a team,” Whitehurst said. “Coach Ally does hold us to high expectations, but I think every single one of us is willing to meet that and we want it for ourselves. We want to be able to compete and to fight hard for what we believe we can get and get out of soccer this year.”

Chelsea will have the chance to showcase that on the field in its season opener, where it will play host to Thompson on Feb. 2.