Lady Choctaws aiming for winning record, postseason success in '17

Friday, August 11, 2017
Dyer County senior and four-year starter Ashley Piskorski looks to score during a drill as the Lady Choctaws prepare for the upcoming soccer season.

JASON PEEVYHOUSE

jpeevyhouse@stategazette.com

Heading into their season opener next week, the Lady Choctaw soccer team has been putting in some quality work as they prepare for the 2017 schedule, which includes new challenges as Dyer County moves into District 14AAA this year.

“I think my girls have put in a lot of quality work this summer,” Dyer County head coach Cody Williams said. “We’ve been stretched thin a little bit, but I have a lot of returning talent from last year’s team and I am pretty confident in them.”

In fact, the third-year Lady Choctaw head coach has only 15 eligible players on the 2017 roster.

“We are a small team this year and I have only two seniors on the team,” Williams said. “So, we’re a little young but we have a lot of experience returning from last year’s group.”

The Dyer County head coach said he feels the girls have spent enough time on the field together during the previous two seasons to develop familiarity with each other as well as how they play. Williams adds he doesn’t think there should be many issues with team chemistry this season.

“It might take us one or two games to finally find our groove,” Williams said. “But, when we do, we’ll be a pretty dangerous team and will be able to compete with a lot of teams.”

Leading the way for the Lady Choctaws this season in the senior class is their lone, four-year starter Ashley Piskorski.

“She is going to be a major factor in our season,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of things that are expected of her this year.

“She is probably, hands down, one of the best athletes at Dyer County High School and she be a really dominant force out on the soccer field.”

Williams added Piskorski is a player he could see moving on to the college ranks.

In contrast, the team’s other senior – Gracie Williams – is a newcomer to the team. Despite this, Williams adds she will be getting quite a bit of playing time this season.

“She’s a pretty athletic player,” Williams said. “She just has to learn her position and I think she’ll have a lot of quality time with us.”

In the junior class, Maggie Hendrickson returns after starting the past two seasons and will see time at the stopper position.

“She’s probably one of my better defensive players,” Williams said. “She is a very intelligent student – and that’s athletic-wise or academic-wise.

“She’s not afraid to be vocal with the rest of the players and I am expecting her to be a general on defense.”

Another third-year starter returning to the fold is Mary Blythe.

“She knows the game,” Williams said. “She knows a lot of the teams that we’ll be playing against. She also brings a lot of experience and she is a great teammate.”

Another junior which should see significant playing time is Kyla Deere, who will see a lot of time at forward but could also play midfield. After joining the team last year and going through a learning curve, Deere looks to be improved this season.

“She has put in a tremendous amount of work this offseason,” Williams said. “I am expecting her to be a big force and get some goal this season.”

Fellow junior Raven Lurks will also get a lot of time at forward after improving during her sophomore campaign.

“I think my team, overall, the shot quality has gotten a lot better,” Williams said. “Last year, we didn’t really have a great average.

“But, with the way those two forwards have been working, we have a lot more power behind our shots now and a lot more accuracy as well.”

Possibly the most talented class top to bottom is the Lady Choctaws sophomore class as many received a ton of playing time as freshmen last season.

“My sophomore class has a tremendous amount of talent in there,” Williams said.

Defensively, Annaleigh Escobar, who came on down the stretch in 2016, looks to continue her progress this season.

“Towards the end of the season, she was a regular starter because she put in the work and learned her position,” Williams said. “She goes 100 percent the entire time of the game. She is a pure work horse.”

Joining her on the field will be Maddie Brandon.

“Maddie Brandon might be small, but she is fierce,” Williams said. “She does not back down from anyone.

“She is a hard worker and she critiques herself a lot. She tries to push herself to be her best and hopefully this will be a breakout year for her playing that wing position.”

Another returning starter from the sophomore class is Payton Reasons.

“She really knows her position well,” Williams said.

Rounding out the sophomore class is Kaylee Houston, another returning starter from last year who will see a lot of center-midfield action. Williams pointed out Houston is one of four Lady Choctaws who have played club soccer, something he hopes will benefit the players this season.

“I’m looking for her and Ashley to really control that middle,” Williams said.

Williams added the experience the sophomore group got last season will help them greatly in 2017.

“There was a learning curve that involved getting used to playing tougher varsity teams like Munford, Brighton, Westview,” Williams said. “I think it was good for them to play against those kind of teams because it gets them playing at a higher level.”

After playing recent years with only a pair of district opponents, the Lady Choctaws, along with Munford and Brighton, move over to 14AAA and are joined by Arlington, Bolton and Cordova. While Dyer County has played each district team twice previously, the teams in the district this season will play each other only once. In addition, the district tournament will consist of more games as Dyer County, Munford and Brighton’s previous tournaments consisted of a semifinal and championship game.

“I think the competition will definitely help this soccer program get better,” Williams said. “It brings more competition and lets us expand our range of teams we play.

“I think over the next couple of years you will see the quality of play increase because of tougher competition we will be facing.”

Williams adds the goals for the season includes putting together a winning record and reaching the district championship game.

“That is the main one you want to get to before state is that district championship,” Williams said. “To get there, our district tournament is a little bit longer than we’re used to. But, I think that will be good for them.”

The Dyer County head coach added he wants the team to host a District 14AAA first-round game.

“The guys did that last year and they really loved it,” Williams said. “They felt really accomplished.

“The girls haven’t gotten to host a district game yet since I have been here and I would really like to be able to do that.”

The Lady Choctaws kick off their season on Monday, Aug. 14 when they travel to Obion County Central at 5:30 p.m.

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