With almost two years passing between games, many girls soccer teams will be filled with new faces in the 2021 season and Hillsboro is no exception.
Since the team’s last game on May 8, 2019, the Toppers have lost several key elements from that year’s team, including five all-conference players from that season, Tess Saathoff, Aubry Rupert, Abbi Jett, Lexi Lusk and Grace Anderson. Saathoff, Jett and Lusk are now plying their trade in the college game, but where does that leave the Toppers?
If Monday’s opening game against Jerseyville is any indication, Hillsboro could be in a lot worse shape. Playing on the Panthers’ home field on April 19, the Toppers hung tough with the Class 3A side before giving up a contested goal in the final five minutes for a 3-2 loss.
The Toppers would strike first blood in Jersey County as they took a 1-0 lead into halftime of the match. Abbigail Schreiber brought the ball up to the right corner of the Jerseyville penalty box, then passed back to Kylee Pastrovich at midfield.
Pastrovich, one of the few Toppers with varsity experience sent a pass up the left side to sophomore Layne Rupert, who settled the pass and sent a shot to the far post past the keeper.
The Panthers would tie the game in the second half at 1-1, but the Pastrovich/Rupert connection struck again to give the Toppers the lead once again.
The Topper senior would feed Rupert a ball through the Jerseyville defense, who Rupert outran for a one-on-one with the keeper. From there, Rupert’s instincts took over as she slid home the go-ahead goal.
The score would stay 2-1 until the final 12 minutes, when the Panthers emerged from a scrum with their second goal of the game. With five minutes to play, action continued around the Topper goal as Sommer Pollard slotted home the game-winner for Jerseyville.
All told, it’d be a less than ideal finish to a solid effort by the Toppers. With Rupert and Pastrovich’s success on offense and solid play by the Hillsboro defense and sophomore keeper Avery Walden to keep the Panthers out of the net, Coach Dave Mattson has a lot to work with in a year that will see the Toppers play ten opponents they’ve never played before.
The first of those new faces comes on Thursday, April 22, weather permitting, as Beardstown comes to the Hillsboro Sports Complex. The Tigers have had a great deal of success on the boys’ side of the sport, but were 2-16-5 in 2019.
As is the case with the Toppers though, the only thing certain is uncertainty with the 2021 edition of the Tigers, who will be playing their first game of the season.
In addition to the varsity game on Monday, the Hillsboro JV also played well, defeating the Panthers 4-2. Kinley Richardson netted a hat trick in her first high school game, with Ava Pollard also scoring for the young Toppers.
Richardson and Pollard are two of the seven freshman on the 29-player Hiltopper roster. Other freshmen are Chloe Fry, Kyleigh Currie, Lassie Cline, Maycie Fuller and Melissa Bell, who will be the JV keeper.
Sophomores, who were without a freshman season due to the pandemic, are Avery Walden, Isabella White, Layne Rupert, Allie Kuhns, Sally Mattson, Sophia Hernandez, Kamryn Kiper, Kyleah Reynolds, Marah Fenton, Morgan Jerrell, Emily Maguire and Alex Frailey.
Abbigail Schrieber, Melissa Rufus and Katie Mondin round out the underclassmen as the three-player junior class.
The only group with significant varsity experience is the seniors, with Pastrovich, Kelsey Holtgrave, Vanessa Compton and Nikya Harston all having at least some starting experience. In addition to those four, Hailey Garcia, Brianna Guinn and Alecia Miller will also be counted on during their final season in the orange and black.
While the season is shrouded in uncertainty, the potential is there for the Toppers to have success and recent history backs up that notion. Since going 8-13 in 2015-16, Hillsboro has three straight winning seasons and has gone 38-20-2 with the program’s first regional title in 2018. Is another one in the cards for 2021? Only time will tell.
April 19 at Jerseyville
Hillsboro 1 1 - 2
Jerseyville 0 3 - 3
Goals: Hillsboro - Layne Rupert 2; Jerseyville - Sally Hudson 1, Sommer Parker 1, Chloe Whited 1. Assists: Hillsboro - Kylee Pastrovich 2; Jerseyville - Chloe Whited 2. Goalkeepers: Hillsboro - Avery Walden; Jerseyville - Carly Daniels. Records: Hillsboro (0-1); Jerseyville (2-0).