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HEBRON ESTATES - The North Bullitt Lady Eagle soccer program didn't suffer graduation losses any worse than most years in terms of numbers.
However, coach Ryan Bringhurst's second team has one gaping hole to fill entering the 2012 season next week. Gone is senior Halee Heltsley who scored 37 goals last season and had 100 goals in her North Bullitt career. Heltsley is now playing soccer at Mississippi State University.
"Obviously, losing Halee was a very big part of our game," Bringhurst said during the team's indoor practice late last week because of the hot weather. "She scored like 75 percent of our goals and she was involved in most of the other goals.
"That is a big loss," the coach added. "Still, I think we have the potential to be the best team since I have been here."
While losing Heltsley is a big negative, there is an even bigger positive for the Lady Eagles this fall as they will move into a new alignment that puts them in Region 6, District 24. Instead of butting heads with powerful teams like Bardstown, Nelson County and Bethlehem...or even Bullitt East...in the first round of the post-season, the Lady Eagles will now compete against Bullitt Central, Southern, Moore and Evangel.
At this point, it is believed that this will eventually be a three-team district as Evangel has not fielded a girls' soccer team in a number of years and Moore's program is just getting off the ground. Moore played just two games last season.
In the past, North Bullitt has had a lot of success against Southern and Bullitt Central.
Even at the regional level, the Lady Eagles could well be one of the top four or five teams along with Mercy and Bullitt East.
"We've talked about the realignment some," Bringhurst said. "They have done really well just focusing on what is next. The first few weeks of practice we were just focused on the Bluegrass State Games (where the team went 1-2).
"Since then all the talk is about the scrimmage on Saturday," the coach added. "Still, a team goal is to win the district for the first time in school history, but they are taking it one step at a time."
The Lady Eagles have 36 players on the roster this season with six of those being middle school players (who cannot play in varsity matches). Bringhurst had more than 40 players try-out for the team. The coach plans on having 23 or 24 players dressing for varsity matches.
North Bullitt moved to a 4-4-2 alignment midway through last season and Bringhurst plans on sticking with the two forward look for this season.
The other big change in personnel this season will be most noticeable in goal as sophomore Shelby Crenshaw will move between the pipes. This is her first season of high school soccer after she has played softball the past few seasons for North Bullitt. Despite the inexperience, Bringhurst is high on her abilities.
"The natural ability for her in goal is exceptional," the coach said. "She stops everything that comes at her. She has good nature instincts. We're just working on some basic things with her. By the end of the season I think she'll be phenomenal."
If needed, sophomore Rachel Badgett, who will be playing in the midfield, could play in goal.
In front of Crenshaw, Bringhurst has a number of candidates for the four spots. Leading the way will be junior Courtney Bloom as well as junior Tabathia Schwienhart and senior Devan Bennington. Rounding out the defensive players will be junior Tabitha Davis, junior Lizzie Conn and sophomore Breanna Sherrard. Sherrard will also play in the midfield at times.
The midfield group also has some depth. Sherrard will play there as will Badgett. The Lady Eagles also have senior Myranda Druien, freshman Kristi Velasquez, junior Elizabeth Grau and Katie Larimore, a freshman, to fill in at the midfield slots.
Up front, the forwards could be sisters Taylor Johnson, a junior, and freshman Amber Johnson. Also seeing playing time at a forward slot will be freshman Sara Ward and senior Siera James.
As one would expect after losing a goal scorer like Heltsley, the Lady Eagles will not be scoring as much this season.
"After watching the Bluegrass State Games I think there will be a lot of 3-2 and 1-0 type games," Bringhurst said. "All the games there were close. We're strong defensively. That will help keep it close.
"We'll definitely score some goals," the coach added. "We have kids who can score. I don't see us having a player score 30 or 40 goals, but we could have four players score around ten goals each. At the Bluegrass Games we had four goals by four different players."
Again this year Bringhurst will be assisted by former Bullitt East player Whitney Frye.
North Bullitt will open the season next Monday with a home game against Fort Knox. The Lady Eagles will play in two major tournaments this season with the SON Cup at North Oldham next week and the Bulldog Cup at Male in mid-September.
The team will play the district games along with the rivalry game with Bullitt East within a seven-day period around Labor Day. The team will take on Southern on August 29 and then Bullitt East the next day. The game with Bullitt Central is set for September 5.