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GIRLS SOCCER Youth Movement: Midland Dow playing everything like a top-15 program



Twitter: @MiSoccerNetwork

MIDLAND, Mich. – If you asked Spencer Sandow back in March how well his team would figure this season, he wasn’t sure if he could give you an answer or at least a clear-cut picture.

As it turns out Midland Dow is going to be good again this season. The numbers support that.

Through April 30, the Chargers are well inside the top-15 of the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association Division 1 state rankings, coming in Sunday night at the No. 8 position. That’s a six-position climb from the previous week’s No. 14 slot.

“I honestly didn’t know what to think. I knew we graduated a solid group and we are a lot younger girls this year with several sophomores and freshmen. But do you know what? Some of these freshmen have been some of our best players so far,” noted Sandow. “We have four freshmen and two are playing a ton of minutes.

“You never know how well freshmen will play at the varsity level, and you never know how some of the other newcomers can make the jump up from junior-varsity to varsity and how well they will play,” added Sandow. “A lot of these younger girls have (blended in nicely) and we are playing some good soccer right now. If you asked me before the beginning of the season, I wouldn’t have necessarily expected this because we are very young.”

An impressive win came Friday at home, as Midland Dow tripped up previous Division 1 top-five Hartland – another one of the top teams in the state enjoying a great start to the 2024 campaign – by a 4-2 count in a non-league contest.

Hartland, which dropped from fourth to ninth in the polls Sunday night, leads the pack in the ever-tough Kensington Lakes Activities Association-West Division. Midland Dow is the defending Saginaw Valley League champion and expected to be one of the top teams in that league despite having a young roster.

Against Hartland, the Chargers trailed 2-1 at the half before Midland Dow outscored the Eagles 3-0 in the second half.

Allison Stockton scored twice and Mallory Brandt added a goal in the second half, as Dow charged back to steal the non-league win at home. Rachel Leuter scored off an assist from Ivy Beall in the first half to give the Chargers an early 1-0 lead. Hartland responded with goals from Katie Swirczek and Josie Cheyne that gave the Eagles their 2-1 advantage at the break.

Following Monday’s 8-0 blanking of Bay City Central, the Chargers now have posted five shutouts and outscored their opposition 42-8. Dow is now 8-0-2 overall through April 29. Multiple different players got into the act of recording goals and assists in this win over Bay City Central as Midland Dow moved one game ahead of Flint Powers Catholic (No. 2 in Division 3) in the SVL standings.

The Chargers stand at 8-0-2 overall and 6-0-1 in conference play. Flint Powers (8-0-2, 5-0-1), Bay City Western (9-2-1, 4-1-1), Midland (7-1-2, 3-1-1), Davison (6-3-0, 4-2-0) and Grand Blanc (5-3-1, 4-2-0) follow close behind in what is now a six-team race mathematically.

Stockton, a freshman forward, has made a great debut with the Chargers and is the team’s leading goal scorer and top five in assists. Senior Rachel Leuter (CM/F), Aubree Bills, another freshman forward/midfielder, and sophomore Melanie Kolnitys (F/M) follow in the stats leaders for goals, assists and points.

Seniors Sarah Sharpe (CB) and Sydney Lambert (OB/OM/F), Beall, a junior center midfielder, and Kolnitys, a sophomore midfielder, are returning starters. Kolnitys (12 goals, eight assists last season) was an All-SVL First Team selection last year as a freshmen, while Lambert was tabbed All-SVL Honorable Mention.

Seniors Carley Gatrell (OB/M), Riley Schikorra (M/F) and Rachel Leuter along with sophomore Mallory Brandt (CM) came off the bench last season but have earned significantly more playing time this season.

Stockton (F), Bills (CM) and fellow freshmen Lauren Schikorra (CM) and Kaitlyn Oikarinen (OB/CB) have been more than pleasant surprises this season and amongst the Chargers’ better players. Sophomore Lauren Leuter (F/M), junior Jessica Neal (CB) and senior Avery Lehman (G) are all amongst the top newcomers.

Lehman is a workaholic between the pipes, making the jump from junior-varsity to varsity starter in goal and playing solid, according to Sandow.

“Avery has come a long ways and I’m pleased with how she is playing in her first season as a starter,” praised Sandow. “She doesn’t play club soccer but has worked so hard in the last year and she earned that spot as one of our goalkeepers. She has been solid all season.”

Dow controls its own destiny if it wins out in terms of repeating as the Saginaw Valley League champion.

“It’s a tight race and the league is a lot deeper than it was a few years ago,” reminded Sandow. “It used to be us, or Grand Blanc or Midland or maybe even (Flint) Powers. Now Davison has come on strong the last few years and so has Bay City Western. Mt. Pleasant was really competitive last year. There’ so many good teams in the league now and it makes for a lot of very close games. We hope to be there at the top in terms of the league at the end of the season and hopefully we can make a little bit of the run in districts. Last year we lost in the district finals.

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