PRYOR, OK —
After a district runner-up finish in 2013, the Pryor girls soccer team has its eyes on bigger and better things in 2014.
In 2013, Kirk Emerine's team posted a 6-4 record and hosted a playoff game for the first time since he's been at the helm, but Cascia Hall eliminated Pryor in the first round. The Tigerettes have yet to get past the opening round of the playoffs under Emerine.
That could change this season.
"We only lost two starters and we were deep last year," Emerine, heading into his fifth season, said. "We do need some wing midfielders to step up and dominate that position for us. We have several players competing at those spots. Our wing midfield play will determine how successful we are this season."
The two departing starters — Jaclyn True and Tara Shelby — will be missed on the Pryor side. Pryor does return six all-district players in seniors Karissa Aubrey, Hannah Bryan, Savana Thomas and Sarah Due and juniors Taylor Emerine and Tiffani Frailey. Also returning are senior midfielder Carman Silas and senior defender Keraston Zumstein.
Emerine encourages local soccer fans to keep an eye on a pair of newcomers.
"The addition of Silje (pronounced Sill-yuh) Bendiksen at goalkeeper provides some competition and depth at the goalkeeper spot with returner Elizabeth Anderson," Emerine said. "Freshman Ashley Ragsdale has shown signs of potential in our scrimmages and is challenging for the left back position."
Bendiksen, an exchange student, is in her first season at Pryor.
Pryor will face several familiar foes in its district slate, including Claremore, Memorial, Skiatook, Grove, Nathan Hale, Metro Christian and Collinsville. Coweta is gone from the district, but Pryor will host the Lady Tigers and Tigers March 10 after the season openers Friday at Wagoner.
"Redistricting didn't affect us much," Emerine said. "Claremore and Skiatook are the teams to beat in our district. Metro will be a tough game as always, as will Collinsville."
Emerine also coaches the boys team in Pryor, which graduated eight of its 11 starters from last year's 2-8 squad.
"Fifty percent of our boys roster this year are freshmen, with only two seniors and three juniors," Emerine said. "We are young but I think we will surprise some people."
Senior Corey Horton, a three-time all-district player, returns to anchor the Pryor side in 2014. Emerine pointed out junior footballers Colton Smith and Ryan Ogg and senior Taylor Kegley as players to watch.
"Horton and Smith are both returning starters and will be relied on heavily to carry the team on the field," Emerine said. "Returning starter Ogg in the goal will have to be an anchor ... Kegley will need to be consistent in the midfield this year for us to be successful."
Emerine expects newcomers Quint Ramsey and Logan Smith to have an immediate impact.
"Logan and Quint are freshmen that may start at center back and will be asked to control the shape of our team," Emerine said. "We have a lot of holes to fill ... there are guys challenging for eight positions on the field."
The boys will play the same schedule as the girls, which includes a home date with Rogers (Ark.) and a trip to Tulsa Edison for a three-game tournament March 28-29.