East Carter soccer has seen some major changes.
The Lady Raiders not only lost one of the region’s most dominant players, Tayor Hall, but are under new management.
Coach Tyler Walker, 2012 East Carter graduate and Kentucky Christian alumni, took over as head coach for the 2019 campaign. Walker has been coaching six years starting with recreation leagues in Grayson to coaching at Elliott County to becoming the JV coach of the boys’ team at East last season. He was more than happy to return home and to accept his first position as head coach of a girls’ soccer program.
Under Coach Walker, the Lady Raiders will rely on a much more balanced offense and team play to make up for Hall’s 70 goals last season.
“We are working on playing more as a team, not just relying on one girl. We don’t have that one dominant girl that is going to score 70 goals. Just playing more team soccer is what we are focused on,” said Walker.
Returning are Burnett, Alyssa Stickler, Avery Hall, Hannah Kelly, Catherine Lewis and Darian Wallace up front. Each contributed at least one goal to the team’s 98 goals.
“We don’t have the offensive power that we had last season up front, but we have players willing to work hard this year and have really improved our teamwork,” said junior midfielder Mackenzie Burnett.
Stickler and Burnett each added over 10 goals. Stickler returns the lead scorer having scored 11 goals. Burnett was last year’s assist leader with 24 assists.
Stickler had 20 assists and Hannah Kelly had 17 during last season. They team keeps the majority of their passing ability allowing them to be more versatile in the offensive end.
“We have really had to learn to pass the ball better to work it up to the goal and play harder defense. Coach Walker has really helped us do that, make more passes, keep the ball, keep possession,” said Kelly.
The Lady Raiders have big shoes to fill on defense after losing Riley Hall and Kaylee Lewis. Expected to fill those spots are Maci Moore and Sarah Haney.
“We have to not allow as many goals because we aren’t going to score as many goals as we did last year. But my goal for the defense this year is more possession based. Can we build out of the back? That is what we are working on. We have had a few slip ups but they are working on it and getting more confident,” said Walker.
Back in net this year is junior keeper, Kaitlyn Conley. Conley has been the Lady Raiders keeper since her freshman season. She has experience and poise that will be an asset to the Lady Raiders’ defense.
She missed the first two games after undergoing knee surgery prior to the upcoming season.
“I am looking forward to what she is going to bring to us by solidifying the back. The first couple games we had to move people in and out of the keeper position. I am excited to see what having a solid and consistent player will do to assist our defense,” said Walker.
She has been in net for the Lady Raiders’ last five games as they enter the fourth week of the regular season. Conley has made 13 saves while allowing on six goals. She picked up her first season shutout in the 9-0 win over Greenup County, and her second in the 2-0 win over their rivals at West Carter.
The Lady Raiders hope to improve on last year’s record of 11-7 and to make it out of the first round of the regional tournament after losing to Ashland last season.
They are currently 4-2-1. They tied Fleming County 4-4 in the second game of the season and have seen loses to Rowan County and Ashland.
Burnett leads the team with 12 goals ahead of Kelly (6), Avery Hall (5) and Stickler (3). Kennedy Bowling and Lewis have each scored two goals while Karen Cabellero and Wallace have added one a piece. Stickler leads with seven assists.
The Lady Raiders’ next game is Wednesday, Sept. 4, at Montgomery County. They take on the Lady Indians at 6 p.m.