There’s a youth movement on the Grafton girls soccer team this year, with three seniors and four juniors among the only veterans.
Even so, the Black Hawks return four all-conference players, led by sophomore midfielder and leading scorer Hailey Block. After scoring 16 goals and doling out eight assists, she was named to the All-North Shore Conference second team.
“Hailey is a fantastic player. I think she’s one of the best players in the conference. She’s got that ability and that drive,” Grafton coach Don Arnold said.
Sophomore Malaya Sperber is back after receiving honorable mention in the conference coaches’ voting. She scored 10 goals and had three assists.
Maddie Depke returns after contributing three goals and one assist and also receiving honorable mention.
Junior defender Abbi Gutknecht is also back after earning honorable mention for shutting down opponents’ top scorers.
When the Hawks look to put the ball in the back of the net, they have a variety of options. Besides Block, Depke and Sperber, sophomore forward Laura Stockhausen has shown scoring punch.
“The nice thing about us offensively is we’ll have the ability for a number of players to score goals for us,” Arnold said.
Defensively, the speedy Gutknecht will join sophomore Abbie Schad, who Arnold said is an intelligent player.
Senior Hailey Zwicker will mark the outside. Sophomore Jaden Autey will organize the defense, which lost All-NSC second-team player Monica Geiser to graduation.
“Defensively, we’re pretty strong as well,” Arnold said.
Sophomore Corbin Woessner will handle goal-keeping duties. Arnold said she saw some playing time last year.
Arnold said winning a conference title is on his teams’s annual wish list, but his main goal is to see daily improvement.
“Working hard is a big thing for this group. I think we’ve got that talent to do some things. It will be the ability of the players to buy in and make some great things happen,” he said.
In the North Shore, making things happen can be challenging. Homestead won the WIAA Division 2 state title last year. Arnold said he expects Whitefish Bay and Cedarburg to be strong, as well.
“You can’t look by anybody in our conference,” he said.
This week, the Hawks were scheduled to open the season at Slinger on Tuesday and will host Cedar Grove-Belgium at 5 p.m. Friday. They will play at Brookfield Academy at 1 p.m. Saturday and host Milwaukee Lutheran at 7 p.m. April 4.