Highlander girls soccer young, but learning
HUNTINGTON -- Call them the young and the relentless.
The Huntington High School Highlanders girls soccer team starts only one senior, but coach Paul Farrell is optimistic his hard-charging, high-energy team can be one of the better squads in the area by tournament time.
HHS played a strong Parkersburg team to a scoreless tie last week, displaying a stout defense against a veteran team. The tie was a defensive masterpiece that allowed the Highlanders, known for their speed, to show toughness that will be needed throughout the season. The game was physical, particularly in the second half, and HHS matched the Big Reds in that area.
"Out team has a good, strong nucleus of juniors," Farrell said. "We start one senior. We're young, but we're learning."
The lone senior starter is outstanding. Sarah Keith is the fastest player on a speedy team.
"Sarah plays out there at the sweeper position," Farrell said. "Not many can outrun her."
Keith also provides leadership, as does junior goalkeeper Ericka Budd, who also starts at center for the Highlanders in basketball.
"I think we have the best goalkeeper in the state," Farrell said of Budd. "She's excellent."
Budd has the respect of her teammates and is a fan favorite for her hard-nosed play and hustle in goal. She heads a group of junior starters that includes Lauren Vega, Catherine Jenkins, Isabella Chirico, Kate O'Donnell, Elizabeth Conaty, Jensyn Leonhart and Tanner McCoy. Freshmen Haven McCoy and Tesia Schray round out the starting lineup.
Huntington High is known for its defense. Having played about 70 percent of the Parkersburg game in its own territory, the Highlanders traded bump for bump with the Big Reds as the teams frequently were testy with one another. HHS, though, would rather play a speed game than get into a physical battle.
Huntington High is looking to improve on offense. Against Parkersburg, the Highlanders took just two shots to the Big Reds' 12.
Sustaining that statistic and winning games won't go together often.
"We need to finish off the offensive opportunites we have," Farrell said. "We're learning to do that."