The Eagles have drawn a hard line across the soccer field this season.

Sophomore sweeper Maggie Crimmins is the often-overlooked heart of that defense, said head coach David Phelps. Her direction is what keeps her fellow defenders one step ahead of the ball.

Senior stopper Kathleen McCann — a record-breaking track star — is a wall of “no,” rejecting attempt after attempt by opponents to send the ball down the field.

If a player slips past, sophomore Maddy Westcott fires off in hot pursuit. She takes the ball and shoots off the other direction, making a steal look as effortless as a pass.

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With Westcott and senior Haylee deWeerdt covering the wings and Crimmins and McCann dominating the center, little gets past the Eagle defense.

The team within a team is pleased with the progress they have made over last season, when things were much more chaotic on the field, they said.

The other three all give credit to Crimmins, and to the team as a whole for communication. The returning players this year have “locked arms” and stepped up, McCann said.

Last season, the team was young and inexperienced; even some older players were new to the game and had a lot to learn, Phelps said.

This year, sophomores and freshmen have held up well to starting in many games.

“I think just that year of experience playing together — and just playing the game in general — has really helped them,” he said.

Sophomore goalkeeper Skylar Fleischman made noticeable improvement in the off-season, Phelps said.

“My issue was timing it well and being confident in my decision,” she said. Over the summer, she watched soccer videos and hit the back yard with her parents, having them try to kick ball after ball past her.

During the Aug. 27 game she made 12 saves, and the team beat Cascade 1-0.

Though they started the season with a 11-0 victory over Indianapolis Washington High School, for much of the season the Eagles have been stronger on defense than offense, Phelps said.

The team did suffer a setback with two starting forwards — junior Katie Spires and senior Maddy Fields — out with injuries. That gave an opportunity for others to step up, such as freshman Isabel Rygiel, senior Elly Wertz and junior Laura Sheckell.

As a team captain, senior midfielder Azhia Morgan likes what she is seeing from the offense as they work to improve, she said.

“We’re definitely coming along very well,” she said. “Our communication is getting better and better each game.”

And it doesn’t hurt that the Eagles seem to genuinely enjoy working with each other.

“It is so much fun,” Rygiel said. “All the girls get along, there’s not a lot of drama, and it’s just fun team play out there.”

“I’m excited,” Phelps said. “It’s been a tough schedule. It’s been an interesting year. It’s a fun group of girls. They’ve really worked hard, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Girls soccer roster

Freshmen: Isabel Rygiel, Bella Hobbs, Hannah Hummel

Sophomores: Leah Tucker, Maddy Westcott, Maggie Crimmins, Gabi Bethards, Skylar Fleischman

Juniors: Jasmine Imming, Katie Spires, Vivien Crimmins, Emma Quackenbush, Faith Parry, Laura Sheckell, Kathleen McCann, Elizabeth Moore, Marissa Shuffitt, Faith Eby

Seniors: Haylee deWeerdt, Monica Percifield, Jori Bruner, Maddy Fields, Elly Wertz, Azhia Morgan, Jennifer Sizemore, Bailee Robison

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.