Helena building chemistry and evolving tactics in hopes for breakout year

Published 11:00 am Thursday, February 1, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

The saying goes that good things come with time, and that’s certainly the hope for Clif Naron and the Helena Huskies this soccer season as they hope their experience leads to success.

Naron has seen the growth in Helena’s soccer program over recent seasons, and he’s confident that this year could be the one where everything starts coming together.

“Each year has brought us new growth,” Naron said. “Each year has brought us new successes and we really think this is a year for us to make our mark for sure.”

That growth is one of the reasons why the Huskies are the No. 10 team in the Class 6A girls soccer preseason coaches poll, and players like senior Maddie Ingber believe they have grown as a result of their improved chemistry.

“It honestly gives us an advantage because we already have that chemistry with our team and (know) who plays where and stuff like that, so I see a lot of success,” Ingber said.

Naron keeps his eye on the Helena Middle School soccer program as well, and because of that, sometimes players join the varsity team while still in middle school.

Those young players sometimes take longer to get up to full speed with the varsity program, but the one advantage that senior Miah Rosener has seen is that everybody stays in the program longer, growing closer together and allowing for continuity from the previous season.

“Since we have relatively the same team we had last year, it’s just going to help us to like pick up where we stopped last year,” Rosener said.

Another example of the Huskies continuity is their tactics, which will still lean on a 4-4-2 formation but is ever evolving.

Naron is working on implementing wingbacks into his tactics, which could lead to Helena presenting a 4-3-3 or a 3-5-2 formation to stretch the offense to the touchlines.

With many of the players having club experience and gaining knowledge of the soccer field through that, Naron can open up his playbook and implement formations and tactics he couldn’t when he arrived at Helena.

“I think we’ve got the players finally that have grown up long enough within the club system,” Naron said. “They understand the field. It’s a little easier to explain the dynamics of formations than it was just three or four years ago. This is our 10th season since the school opened, and so we’ve gone through a transition of having one or two kids that played club and nobody that even knew what soccer was other than a ball and to a full squad from middle school to varsity that all play club year-round. So, it’s making a difference for us.”

Ingber said the team hopes that finding out what they do best in each formation will allow them to adapt to different opponents and have greater success.

“We’re just going to try and figure out where our strengths lie in that formation and just power through with those positions,” Ingber said.

She believes that the vast number of returning players makes it easier to connect passes on the field and get the ball to their most effective and consistent players.

“I think after last year, our strengths are really just going to be able to find each other and knowing, ‘who do we have to rely on?’” Ingber said. “I think we’ve just built more trust honestly in each other, so we just fall back on each other.”

Two of those players the team knows they can rely on are Kate Hendrix and Bailey Rummage, who both joined Rosener on the 2023 All-County Second Team as freshmen. Rosener believes her fellow All-County teammates will be crucial to success again this season.

“Kate Hendrix, she started playing with us last year, so she kind of started a little bit later than the people in her grade,” Rosener said. “She’s a 10th grader, but she dominated as soon as she stepped on the field, so I think she’s going to impress us this year.

“Bailey Rummage, she’s always a strong player, very aggressive on the field, so she’s going to contribute to our team a good bit too.”

She also hopes that the new tactical changes allow them to switch up the game-plan in they need to against the tough opponents they will face.

“Sometimes, we just get in the groove of a certain way that we play and then we don’t adjust well when that formation or that lineup isn’t compatible with the team that we’re playing or it’s not being successful,” Rosener said. “I think just having a couple of different formations like (coach Naron) talked about is going to be really helpful this season.”

Another hope that Ingber has for the Huskies on the field is to give maximum effort for the full game and not let a goal or a mistake make them spiral.

“We have trouble with as soon as they get a goal on us, we tend to give up,” Ingber said. “So, I think one major goal that we should have is just play the whole 90 minutes, not just the first 10 minutes of one half and the first 10 minutes of the next.”

Naron echoed that as he pointed to their success against area opponents Briarwood and Indian Springs last season despite losing those games.

He hopes that his team shows an improved mental resilience since that could lead to better results against teams like Homewood, Spain Park, Thompson and perennial rival Pelham.

Many of those goals can be traced back to Helena’s biggest desire for this season: improvement. It’s something that Rosener has seen on and off the field during her time with the Huskies, and as she and her eight senior teammates start their last season, she is confident that the improvement will continue.

“Each year that I’ve been here, the grade that comes up, they’re better every single year,” Rosener said, “Clubs have just gotten stronger, and soccer, I don’t know if it’s just gotten more popular or what, but the skill that we get each year just continues to grow. So, I think in the coming years, we should have some success too.”