Last year at this time, Marion Head Coach Jacob Boggs was thrown into the fire early, taking the reins of the Giants girls soccer team right before the season began.
But that late start did not stifle the Giants’ overall success in 2019.
Under Boggs, Marion finished with 11 wins, before coming up short against Western in the sectional final. While there were ups and downs throughout the campaign, the Giants’ potential shined through, making them a tough team to beat when on their game.
In a year of record-breaking performances, striker Taylor Kitts put together one of the finest seasons in Marion girls soccer history, scoring a school record 37 goals and averaging 2.3 goals per contest.
With Kitts returning for her senior year, together with an ever-improving group of veterans and incoming talent, the Giants have a repeat opportunity to succeed in 2019.
“We had a lot of newer girls coming out this summer, so for the newer girls, it was trying to get them acclimated to the style of play and to soccer in general,” Boggs said. “And for the other girls, it was trying to push them to the next level…helping the girls understand more positionally and being better defensively.”
Heading into his first full offseason, Boggs and the Giants have concentrated on better spacing and stronger defense. While Marion’s offense was potent, they suffered defensive setbacks at a higher rate than Boggs would have liked.
While there is still work to be done, Boggs believes that the girls are starting to grasp the concepts being taught to them.
“We played with a lot of older players this summer,” Boggs said. “They got to see, as the games progressed, that those are the things that they need to be focusing on…not chasing [the ball] all over the place. That was a real focus – so we could be more positionally sound.”
Kitts will be the focal point of the offense once again in 2019, but throughout offseason workouts, senior Claire Hendricks has been really impressive, and Boggs believes she will play an even bigger role in 2019.
“She grew so much last year,” Boggs said. “Taylor was obviously dominant, but Claire really stood out. Everything I’ve ever asked of her, she does it, and it’s been amazing. She’s putting all of her shots on frame.
“This is going to be Claire’s year. She has the right mindset, [and] she has the determination.”
Alex Riggs and Ellie Vermilion return to lead the Giants’ back line, while freshman Kaylin Burke, whom Boggs called “a mini Taylor,” has the potential to carve out a big role for herself in the coming campaign.
Furthermore, the Giants also solidified their goalkeeper depth, adding Wabash transfer Olivia Lindsay. After using three goalkeepers over the course of last season, Boggs hopes that Lindsay will help to provide stability.
“She’s got that hunger and that mindset,” Boggs said of Lindsay. “She’s got all the skills. She reads the game well, she comes out and commands her box, and she has good foot skills.”
On paper, the Giants have a solid core and a talented group that has a chance to be even better in 2019. If they play to their potential, Boggs believes that the Giants can play and compete with any team on any given day.
“I’ve seen them grow so much,” Boggs said. “The girls who have come [to open field]…I have seen tremendous growth. I think we are going to be better off than we were last year. I believe that if the girls do everything I ask of them, we can beat any team on any day.”