HEBRON ESTATES - Older. Smarter. Wiser. Better.
A year after going 9-10-1 with a squad that had just three seniors, the North Bullitt Lady Eagles are looking for bigger and better things this fall.
While most of the players return, there is a change at the top as Ryan Bringhurst has taken over the reins from Missy Fox who coached the team just one season. Bringhurst was the assistant coach last year.
This is the first head coaching job for Bringhurst who graduated from Bullitt East in 2000 where he played football and participated in track.
He will be assisted by another Bullitt East grad, Whitney Frye, who is teaching at Roby Elementary.
Any talk of the Lady Eagles starts with senior Halee Heltsley. A year ago, the flashy midfielder scored 41 goals to rank among the top ten players in the state in that category. The total was a school record. That was quite an accomplishment as no other player on the team scored more than four goals.
Heltsley plays on some of the top teams in Louisville and has already committed to play her college soccer at Mississippi State. She will sign with that program in February.
“Halee played really well last year with the 41 goals,” Bringhurst said. “Halee certainly stands out because she scores so much, but we have quality players all over the field. We have had several girls who have showed the potential to step up and be effective. We have a solid group of midfielders and on defense also.”
Last year was the first season for Bringhurst to be involved with soccer and to coach girls. He really didn’t hesitate when the job opening was posted.
“I turned it in immediately,” he said of his resume. “Coach (Bill) Robinette (the former NB athletic director) hired me before he left. I didn’t have to think too much about it.”
One change that Bringhurst has brought to the program is a shift from three forwards to two. Now it is more a 4-4-2 alignment.
Bringhurst kept all 41 of the girls who came to the try-out and he plans to use a lot of them, saying that as many as 27 could dress for varsity games and that he could use as many as 20 in any one game.
“Most of the girls played last year,” the new coach said. “We only had the three seniors. We return just about everybody and we added another ten or so.”
While most people think of someone who scores 41 goals in a season as a forward in soccer, Heltsley actually is a midfielder. While she will hold down one of those four spots, playing time could rotate for the other three spots between six players. Bringhurst listed senior Lizzie Conn, junior Myranda Druien and sophomore Elizabeth Grau as candidates along with sophomore Taylor Mills, freshman Bre Sherrard and sophomore Cheyenne Warren.
Up front, the two forward slots will be manned from a group that includes sophomore Taylor Johnson, senior Kristin Milliniks, senior Emily Conn, sophomore Tabatha Schweinhart, senior Dawnielle Foray and freshman Rachel Badgett.
On the defensive end of the field, the goal keeper out of the gate will be senior Samantha Curtsinger who played the position all of last season. Bringhurst will also be taking a close look at getting time for Sherrard.
The line of players in front of the goalie won’t have quite the depth as the offensive spots. The four spots will be filled from a group of players that includes sophomore Courtney Bloom, sophomore Tabitha Davis, junior Angela Kaesheimer, senior Bre Showalter and junior Devan Bennington.
Bringhurst can’t quite put his finger on how this team will compete this fall when it comes to a style of play.
“I think it’s a combination of things,” the new coach said. “We’re showing good defense, but I think we’re a little better offensively. We’ll have some 1-0 games and some 7-5 type games. It’s just one of those things.”
Last season, the Lady Eagles got off to a 2-5 start that included a four-game stretch that saw them give up 42 goals. The squad did not give up more than five goals in any of the final 13 games, a stretch that included a five-game winning streak.
North Bullitt got off to a confidence building start last week when they crushed Fern Creek 10-0 in a scrimmage.
While Bringhurst has no doubt that North Bullitt will be better this season, he also knows that getting past the Nelson County schools when it comes to the post-season is a difficult task. In fact, North Bullitt has never advanced out of district play. The best they could do was an overtime loss in the semi-finals a few years ago.
“We have a really good team,” the coach said. “I think we can compete with any team in the district. We showed some promise late last year. We have a lot of kids who got a lot of exposure and that will translate well to this season.”
The Lady Eagles will open the season on Monday at Fort Knox and then play at home for the first time on Wednesday against LaRue County at 5:30 p.m.