DREHER GIRLS SOCCER

Young talent steps up for confident Blue Devils

ainelson@thestate.comApril 24, 2014 

The Dreher Blue Devils had reason to be confident entering the 2014 season.

With nine starters returning, including their leading scorers and the bulk of the defense, the Blue Devils started the season on a 10-win streak and held a 14-1 record going into spring break.

Coach David Kleinfelder was not surprised with his team’s start.

“I told them we had great possibilities, but when you’re dealing with younger players with not a lot of experience, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint exactly how you’re going to do,” said Kleinfelder, whose team picked up its second loss on Tuesday, falling 3-0 to River Bluff. The Blue Devils (14-2) are ranked No. 5 in Class 3A.

Dreher uses a squad composed mainly of underclassmen, most of whom got at least a few starts while compiling a 17-5 record in 2013. Though they have a handful of seniors, including Kathleen Gant and outside defender Shaniqua Hopkins, the Blue Devils were able to maintain a cohesive team unit, which helps counter their inexperience.

“It’s a nice situation to kind of have, because you can speed up a little bit of what you needed to do,” Kleinfelder said.

Despite their youth, the Blue Devils have gotten the leadership they need on the sideline and strong on-field performances from many players to help weather illness and injury.

“We made it through the first half of the season (with a lot of players) really stepping up and playing really good,” Kleinfelder said. “That was obviously encouraging.”

Sophomore forward Sarah Grady said, “We’re a great team, and we’ve come very far. It’s an honor to be a part of this team, and it’s been really fun.”

Dreher has been strong at both ends of the field.

The Blue Devil offense has been prolific, posting 91 goals — with an average of five scores per game. But Dreher’s defense has been key, allowing eight goals all season, with 12 shutouts.

“Both sides really feed off of each other, and we just try to win every ball going both ways,” senior midfielder Kathleen Gant said.

“People say the best offense is a good defense, but if you can have the ball down on their offensive end a lot, that helps a lot, too,” Kleinfelder said.

Kleinfelder said the second half of the season would be the Blue Devils’ proving ground, and the final two weeks are no exception.

In second place in Region 4 with three games remaining, the Blue Devils are preparing for three big challenges: region rematches against A.C. Flora and Chapin, and a test against 12-5 Brookland-Cayce.

The signs are favorable for a finish that’s as strong as their start.

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