Bobcat girls address offensive struggles

Marshalltown girls soccer coach Allie Osmundson knows that if her squad wants to improve on the offensive end of the field this season, the Bobcats will have to do a better job of possessing the ball.

Just kicking it downfield and hoping something good will happen just didn’t cut it last year.

“We need to keep the ball longer,” said Osmundson, who graduated from Marshalltown in 2005 and played collegiately at Missouri State. “Possession has to be key. We just kicked it around last year and didn’t work as a team.”

The Bobcats are coming off a 3-15 campaign in Osumundson’s first year at the helm. In those 15 losses, the Bobcats did not score a goal in 13 of them, including finishing the season with 11 straight shutouts against them.

“We are off to a better start this year than we were last year,” Osmundson said. “We are playing better as a group and we have a few different offensive formations that should help with our lack of scoring.”

The Bobcats have not done a lot of shooting in the preseason because the poor weather has kept the squad indoors. It’s hard to take shots that would be shots taken in the games but working the ball indoors could play beneficial in helping the team learn how to possess the ball.

“We have only been outside a few days so we haven’t really taken a lot of shots and our goalies haven’t really had a chance to stop live shooting yet,” Osmundson said. “That has been hard for sure.”

The Bobcats will have plenty of experience to turn to in 2013. Nine starters are back, including second-team all-CIML midfielder Megan Major.

Major, the only senior expected to start this season, will be asked to do a lot of things for the Bobcats. She won’t always get the glory of scoring goals, but everything that happens offensively will run through her. She will be the point guard on the field.

“We will play the ball through her and she needs to be our vocal leader,” Osmundson said. “She needs to win the ball, then distribute the ball. She needs to be our decision maker, our playmaker and be strong defensively, as well.”

Another starter expected to lead the defense is junior Taylor Vaudt. She will serve as the sweeper and is expected to see the whole field defensively in front of goalkeepers Amanda Hughes and Lupita Magana, who will once again split time in the net.

Vaudt as well as juniors Lexi Vaughn, Brittany Waldron and Morgan Gardalen sophomore Molly Major were honorable mention all-conference selections last year.

Two other juniors expected to make an impact are Jordyn Simbides and Lindsey Ricken. Freshman Ellyn Boland should see plenty of varsity action as well.

“The junior class is really big and talented,” Osmundson said. “They need to know that it is time to step up. They are not freshmen and sophomores anymore.”

Vaughn, Waldron, Ricken and Molly Major are all midfielders, while Simbides and Boland are defenders and Gardalen is a forward.

“This team can be as good as it wants to be,” Osmundson said. “We have potential. Are we willing to work? That’s the biggest thing. If we work hard, good things can happen.”

The Central Iowa Metropolitan League will once again be a tough conference. Osmundson said West Des Moines Valley is always a state title contender and Ames is very good year in and year out. But no game on the schedule will be easy.

“Every game will be tough,” she said. “There won’t be any easy wins.”

Ankeny begins the season ranked No. 3 in Class 3A, while Dowling Catholic is No. 4 and Valley is No. 5. Waukee (8) and Johnston (9) also are ranked in the top 10 to begin the season.

Molly Major and Vaught led the offense last year with three goals, whiile Gardalen, Vaughn and Waldron each scored twice. The Bobcats scored 15 goals in 2012 and nine of them came in a 9-0 win over Des Moines Lincoln.

The Bobcats begin the season today on the road against Pella Christian beginning at 7 p.m. Marshalltown then travels to the Southeast Polk Invite on Saturday. The Bobcats will play Indianola at 10:30 a.m. at the Southeast Polk High School field and then take on Des Moines East at 1:30 and Des Moines North at 4:30 at the Spring Creek Soccer Complex.

“Confidence has to factor in when you don’t score goals for so long,” Osmundson said. “We need to see some goals go into the net early on so we can get some confidence. Hopefully we can start the season by scoring a few goals against Pella Christian.”