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Iron soccer opens season eyeing 4th Regional title; Roster not full strength with early season injuries

2024 season preview
Jeff Christopherson
Reese Anderson and Rayna Powers are slated to be the Iron offenses leading scorers this season. But, as both enter the season nursing injuries, Community will have to wait and see. Photo Courtesy: Mr. Jeff Christopherson

When the girls soccer season kicks off against Metamora on March 12, the Iron aim to build upon last season’s 13-9-4 record, eyeing a fourth consecutive Regional title.
Last season concluded with a 6-4 defeat against Minooka in the Sectional opener, a 16-season drought without a Sectional Title.

The Iron welcome back Rayna Powers, who, after being named All-State as a freshman, sat out her sophomore season.

The midfielder devoted last season to club soccer, a choice that proved fruitful as Powers verbally committed to play for the University of Kentucky, a Division I program, in October.

Powers’ decision to return to the Iron lineup was influenced by one thing: her Ironmen teammates.
“Freshman year was really fun,” Powers said. “I just wanted to experience that again.”

But the Iron roster isn’t just fun; they are talented.

“I know the team is really, really good,” the junior said. And they look to get better.

“I know we’re getting some good freshmen coming in,” Powers said. That incoming talent can strengthen an already proven roster led by senior Reese Anderson.

Last season, Anderson tallied a team-leading 18 goals and 11 assists, 10 goals ahead of the team’s next leading scorers Elly McClelland and Addy Weyrauch.

Anderson’s chemistry with Powers might just see the forward improve on her junior campaign’s numbers.

“We’ve been on the same team since we were little,” Anderson said. With Powers back in the lineup, Anderson thinks the duo will “put up a lot of goals together.”

“We work really well together,” the First-Team All-Sectional selection said. “I have my partner back.”

With defenses keying on Powers, the future UK Wildcat expects more chances for her teammates.

With added attention on her, Power said, opens her “teammates up for success.”

Comments like that have helped the junior earn a reputation as a humble and selfless teammate.

Coach Mr. Matt Chapman, helming Community’s girls soccer program for more than two decades, echoes those sentiments.

Powers’ return doesn’t just benefit the team in terms of talent, the coach said, but from a “team-building perspective and togetherness perspective.”

“She’s well-loved by everybody and well respected,” Chapman said.

But fans will have to wait to see Anderson and Powers in the Iron’s lineup.

The duo, along with Elly Hatcher and Sarah Thompson, an All-Conference Honorable Mention, are opening the season nursing injuries.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Chapman said before they are back in the lineup.
“It’s hard to say yet on how much time,” the four will miss, Chapman said, as “this week [will] determine if they are ready to go yet or if they’re if they have more recovery time.”
But the coach remains optimistic about the timetable for the players’ return.
“We’re getting closer,” Chapman said. “Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll see a steady stream” of players returning.

While the team has the ability to produce on offense, however, Chapman said the program’s “bedrock principle” is defense.

“We always work hard on defense,” Chapman said. “We try to make it very, very difficult for the opponent to score.”

Last season, in 25 contests, the Ironmen recorded nine shutouts, allowing just 28 goals all season.

Graduate Maddie Johnson allowed just 17 goals in 1125 minutes last season, recording six of the Iron’s shutouts. Erica Elofson split time at keeper with Johnson, allowing 12 goals in 695 minutes.

Elofson makes her debut in net for the Iron when they open their season against the Metamora Redbirds in non-conference play, looking to improve on last season’s three shutout performances.

Elofson saw a lot of action as a sophomore, Chapman said, which helped her “establish herself” as the Iron’s “number one goalkeeper.”

Backing up Elofson is sophomore Kellyn Kramer, a player Chapman said he has “a lot of faith in.”

Elofson has her work cut out for her as the team opens the season up with four veterans sidelined.
With some uncertainty in the lineup to start the season, Chapman expects everyone to be ready to go.

That includes sophomores Elly McClelland and Emma Reichert, as the two look to expand their roles at midfield this season.

“I think it’s very fortunate that Elly and Emma got a lot of varsity experience last year as freshmen,” the coach said, “They were major contributors last year.”

Last season, McClelland, an All-Conference Honorable Mention, tallied eight goals and six assists for the Iron; Reichert scored four goals and five assists.

“Goals or assists are great,” Chapman said. “But those are not the most important measurements in soccer.”

What McClelland and Reicherart bring to the team, Chapman said, goes beyond the stat sheet.

While “numbers are great,” Chapman said he is looking for from the pair is “hard-nose[d], tough” playstyle. If they can bring that to the pitch again this season, Chapman said, the Iron “will be in good shape.”

That toughness will bolster the performance of veterans like Teagan Fahy and Mary Baker.

Fahy, a Transylvania University commit, is “very good at putting a ball exactly where she wants it to go,” Chapman said.
“She’s very accurate with her passing, very accurate with her crosses.”

Fahy, as a junior, tallied 12 assists on the season.

Baker’s specialty in the midfield is her defense; a First-Team All-Sectional selection last season, she has the added ability to “pop some goals in,” Chapman said.

The team opens the season Tuesday, hosting the Metamora Redbirds, who went 13-5-3 last season. Metamora’s season ended last year at the hands of the Peoria Notre Dame team, which went 18-4-2 on the way to a Sectional Title.

April 11’s contest against the Irish is one the team has circled on their schedules.

The Notre Dame Irish went undefeated in Big 12 conference action last season, handing Community a 2-0 defeat.

Community finished fourth in the Big 12, going 7-3 in conference play.

The Iron will open conference play April 1 when they face the Bloomington Raiders.


*A previous version of this story misattributed two post-season honors. 
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About the Contributors
Pranathi Ganti
Pranathi Ganti, Staff Writer
Pranathi Ganti is a senior at Normal Community High School and serves as the President of both FBLA and Key Club chapters. She is a staff writer in her first year working with the Inkspot. A random fact about me is I sneeze when I look at the Sun. My best advice is to live to impress your 6-year-old self.
Charles (Charlie) Faulkner
Charlie Faulkner is a senior at Normal Community High School and is a part of the NCHS Experimental Music Ensemble. This is his first year of working with the Inkspot, and he is a staff writer. I love all things music. I have played guitar since I was six years old and can fake it with just about any other string instrument you give me. My best advice is never forget the importance and power of forgiveness.
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