Pleasant Hill girls soccer coach Al Iantorno believes his team is going to have its best year yet. Considering what the Chicks accomplished last season, that’s saying something.
Pleasant Hill finished 22-2 in 2016, and along the way won the Missouri River Valley Conference West and Class 2 District 11 championships before falling in the Class 2 state sectionals. That’s a pretty tough act to follow. But Iantorno says this team has more than enough talent and firepower to justify his optimism.
“This is probably the best team we’ve had at Pleasant Hill since the start of the program,” Iantorno said. “We’ve got a lot of players that have been with us for four or five years and they’re doing real well. And we’ve got five or six new players that can play.”
When the girls’ soccer program started at Pleasant Hill, Iantorno said the team consisted mostly of players with limited experience in the sport. Now he says the Chicks have a healthy mix of “home grown” players and veterans who play year round with club teams. It’s a big reason why the Chicks have gone from winning only five matches in 2013 to pushing state finalist Pembroke Hill before going down 2-1 in sectionals.
“I’m very proud of the girls,” Iantorno said. “We’ve got a mixture of club players and some home-grown players. They’re jelling together and they’re doing well.”
Pleasant Hill returns its top scorer in Mackenzie Dimarco, a forward who scored 71 goals as a freshman last season. She’ll be joined up front by newcomer Jacey Faust, a freshman who comes in with club experience. The Chicks also have back midfielder Autumn Ferguson, a junior that Iantorno calls the team’s playmaker.
The back line will once again be anchored by Olivia Ferdig, a team captain and one of seven seniors on the team. Senior Jaymie Clevenger returns in goal, and she’ll be backed up by promising freshman Jordan Hoerl.
“With the defense and goalkeepers we have, we should be OK on this level,” Iantorno said.
Iantorno’s main concern as the season gets ready to get under way is injuries. The Chicks are a little banged up, and their free kick specialist, sophomore defender Adelynn Link, is out until next week after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Other than that, Iantorno is convinced that this team will go far. A state tournament appearance? He doesn’t believe it’s out of the question.
“I think this is the team that can get into the final four,” Iantorno said. “This is the year to do it, and we’re going to do it.”