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Young team takes field for new coach

The 2020 Unicoi County High School Lady Devil soccer team includes, pictured from left, back row, Brisa Saldana, Agueda Sandoval, Iliana Martinez Lopez, Jacey Ashley, Lacey Ashley, Lana Deshner, Maria Cedillo, Macy Robinson and Sofia Powers; front row, Myra Negrete, Leshli Lopez, Brieanna Duncan, Amy Cannon, Adilene Luquin, Valeria Ponce, Karen Reyes and Jasmine Al-Abed. (Photo contributed by UCHS)

By Trey Williams

Coach Greg Pliler approaches the 2020 season still settling on a starting lineup for his Unicoi County Blue Devils girls soccer team. But he is eager to watch the maturation of this freshmen-laden team.

“We have a good group of freshmen just starting out this year,” Pliler said. “We’ve been working on improving their (and everyone’s) basic skills of the game. These include conditioning, ball-handling, communication while on the field, and power.”

The Blue Devils have seven seniors – Lana Deshner, Iliana Martinez, Brieanna Duncan, Leshi Lopez, Adilene Luquin, Valeria Ponce and Maria Cedilio. Deshner and Martinez are the captains.

“They both primarily play in the backfield,” Pliler said, “Lana at halfback and Iliana at fullback. Lana has the ability to slide up front and help the offensive line as needed.”

Lacey Ashley is the lone junior. She will start in goal.

Two sophomores are on the roster, Myra Negrete and Macy Robinson.

Jasmine Al-Abed, Jacey Ashley, Amy Cannon, Sofia Powers, Karen Reyes, Brisa Saldana and Agueda Sandoval comprise the large freshman class.

“I see the leader of our forward line as senior Valeria Ponce,” Pliler said. “A few of the girls that have primarily played in the backfield should see some time up front due to their power and strong foot.

“We have a freshman (Amy Cannon) that had good chemistry with Ponce in practice. I see Amy being worked in the rotation up from with Ponce because of how they worked together.”

Pliler has a rather simple goal for this team.

“I want everyone to enjoy the game and have fun, especially the seniors,” Pliler said. “I want them to leave UCHS with great memories.”

Indeed, athletes seem to take nothing for granted after witnessing the coronavirus pandemic wiping out spring sports.

“The girls are happy for the season to be starting and are eager to get back on the soccer field,” Pliler said. “They’re going to give 100 percent to every game we play for as many wins as possible.”

The Lady Devils hosted Greeneville on Tuesday, Aug. 26, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue. They are scheduled to travel to Daniel Boone on Thursday, Aug. 27, and host Volunteer on Tuesday, Sept. 1.

UCHS officials remind fans planning to attend games that face coverings should be worn and social distancing guidelines should be followed at all times. Temperature checks will take place upon entry.