For the last few years, Benjamin Russell’s girls soccer team has been a squad full of a lot of youngsters. Although the Wildcats have found quite a bit of success, they haven’t quite been able to overcome the hump of winning a section title.
But this year, they’re changing things up to a new formation that’ll hopefully breed even more success. They’re moving to a 3-4-3 formation and will look to dominate possession in hopes of creating easy scoring opportunities.
“This style of play is going to require patience and in today’s society we look for instant gratification,” BRHS coach Lee Wagoner said. “This is a patient style of soccer. We’ll be looking to move the ball, make smart, correct passes and try not to force anything. The goal is to open up the (opposing) defense so scoring opportunities present themselves. We want to show the other team we can possess the ball, so we frustrate them so they make a mistake and we can pounce on it.”
Up front will be returning starters Jordan Osborne and Makenzie Davis, who is making a move from more of an attacking midfielder to forward. Abigale Sims will play an attacking midfielder role as the Wildcats will use a triangle shape to offensively move the ball.
“We’re a team; there’s no ‘I’ in this so we don’t care who scores,” Wagoner said. “For our offense to work, we want to work within our system but the majority of the offense will come from Makenzie, Abigale and Jordan.”
The biggest move in the midfield is Kylee Stark, who played most of the last two years as a center back but will be move to a midfielder this year.
“She’s embraced the role,” Wagoner said. “She has a lot of questions, which is good. It’s new but she’s soaking in the information like a sponge. It’s been an easy learn for her, but there will be a transition period.”
Lydia Ballard, Michael Ann Wellborn and Caroline Yearkey will also play in the midfield. Because the new formation is so much about holding possession, Wagoner said he’ll frequently use subs in the midfield, which is a high-work rate position.
Kelley Wilson, Laura Thames and Camryn Benefield will take up starting spots on the back line while Abby Davis is also seeing time on defense. All of those are returners, which should be a positive as the Wildcats look to replace their starting goalkeeper.
Competing for the starting spot are Sydney Vardaman, who was the JV goalkeeper last year, and Kelley Hernandez, who played defense last year and was the backup to Sara Jones, who graduated in 2019.
“They’re sharing reps in practice and they work hard together,” Wagoner said. “They feed off each other and help each other with what they’re doing at practice. So we’re going to let them battle it out for the starting position.”
Opelika and Russell County will once again be in the section with BRHS, and neither team graduated many either. Wagoner once again excepts Opelika to be the toughest competition for the Wildcats. The last two years, Benjamin Russell has lost the section title to the Bulldogs on tiebreaker scenarios.
But BRHS’ biggest goal this year to finally overcome them.
“We should compete for it, but we want to win one — not tie but win one outright,” Wagoner said. “We’re going to work on ourselves as individuals, as a team and as a whole. We’ll work through this system change throughout the course of the year because it’s going to be a learning process.”
Benjamin Russell’s season begins today as the Wildcats head to the Southern Shootout in Mobile.