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April 17, 2013

Athens girls soccer takes aim at next step in program growth

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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Athens girls soccer takes aim at next step in program growth
Troy Athens team captains Liz Abro and Gabriella Mancini, both four-year varsity players, are pictured before a practice last week.

TROY — Four games into the 2013 season, Troy Athens girls soccer coach Todd Heugh said he’s “encouraged” with just how things have gone so far.

Yes, it’s early.

Yes, he and his team are coming off what he termed, is somewhat of a “disappointing” spring in 2012.

But last year was a rebuild, a reshuffling for a program that graduated so much talent from a 2011 squad that it reached the regional final.

Now, it’s time to put it all back together.

“We’re building on what we did last year, for sure,” Heugh said last week. “Last year was a rebuild, there’s no doubt about it. But now we feel like the learning curve is over, and there’s a lot of potential for us.”

The 2011 team won 21 games before falling to Utica Eisenhower in a regional final.

But with the end of that season came the end of the careers for nearly the entire roster.

When Heugh took over last spring, he did so with just three returning starters, and many girls playing varsity soccer for the first time.

“We had some kids thrown in the fire, and they had to learn on the fly,” he said. “It was tough, kind of disappointing with how we ended up, but we had a very young team, and we went through a tough patch of games that kind of snowballed and hurt us the rest of the season. But, like I said, I think the lessons were learned, and the hope is, it pays off for us now.”

After going 8-10-2 last season, Athens was off to a 2-0-2 start at press time, despite a schedule loaded with solid opponents.

The Red Hawks tied Birmingham Marian 1-1; beat Madison Heights Lamphere 2-1; beat Berkley High 3-0; and tied Lake Orion High 0-0.

“I’m very encouraged with what we’ve done so far,” Heugh said of his team, which was 1-0-1 in Oakland Activities Association Red Division. “Overall, the team defense has been real strong. The goalkeeping has been good after graduating some starters there, and we’ve been able to do some things, offensively.”

Heugh said team captains Liz Abro and Gabriella Mancini, both four-year varsity players, lead the team.

The hope, he added, is that leadership will find an OAA Red title, and then some.

“The goal is to compete for a league title,” Heugh said. “We have some girls here who were part of the success a few years ago, who have been through the rebuild, and now are ready to take us back to that point. So we start with the league, and after that, you aim at the district. From there, anything can happen.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.