Flashes boast tourney experience

CHAMPION — Experience reigns supreme for the Champion girls soccer team as it enters postseason play next week in the Division III Warren District tournament. Eight of 11 starters return from the 2017 squad that finished as the district runner-up.

“With any sport, it (experience) can only benefit the team,” Champion coach Stephanie Tice said. “My senior class is the core of my team. They are what my team really surrounds itself with. The most intense situation that you can put a team in at the district level, they have been through that twice.

“The senior class experience coming into another round of district playoffs, they know what it feels like to win. They know what it feels like to lose.”

The starting lineup is led by a strong senior class, as well as underclassmen who were expected to contribute coming into the season. Expectations were high for the 2018 team, and the Golden Flashes did not disappoint, putting together a 13-2 season and earning the No. 1 seed in the Division III Warren District tournament.

Champion has a bye in the first round and plays Pymatuning Valley or Bristol in a sectional bracket final on Oct. 18.

“I think the key to our success this year is that our team doesn’t just have one player that can play,” Tice said. “We have a ton of talent, and the girls have really jelled together, so they have worked together very well, and they are willing to try new things.

“There is always going to be a player that is willing to step up, and make a play when we need it. We don’t just rely on that one person.”

They may not depend on one player, but the leader of the team is a known. Madison Luckett is a senior three-year letter winner. Among her accomplishments in her career is second-team All-state, first-team All-district, first-team All-league and player of the year All-league a season ago. Luckett looks to lead Champion to additional success in the postseason.

“She is one of our captains and leads our team in goals with 31,” Tice said. “She came back from a really bad injury due to soccer in March, and she had surgery. She broke her leg.

“It was definitely a very intense time for her and her family, but the way that Madison has rehabbed and come back, she is still in that leading role. She is still a dominant presence on the field. Her teammates look to her. She is absolutely a leader.”

Additional letter winners from the 2017 season include, Marlei Coen-Young, Sophia D’Urso, Emma Gumont, Madi Haines, Malory Jessup, Ariana Peyton, Katie Katradis, Carli Swipas and Anna Wolbert.

Abbi Grace (12) and Abby White (11) joined Luckett in double figures in goals scored. D’Urso led the Flashes in assists with 12 and Coen-Young had 11. Gumont recorded 94 saves in goal.

“I am expecting my team to come out and play hard every game,” Tice said. “I think that they really understand that when it gets to be a playoff situation, if you don’t win, you are done. I know that their goals are set high.

“They definitely don’t want to lose early. They definitely don’t want to fall short of a gold medal. They want to get back to regionals, because they have been there before, and they know what it is like. That is what they have been working for.”

Moving forward, these heavy expectations will be old news for the experience and success that Champion is going to put on the field. It will be up to the players to take the experience, and turn it into a successful district run.