Last year, the Lady Indians played two games where they either couldn’t field a full 11 players or didn’t have any subs for the entire game, playing the shorthanded game with just nine against a their fully equipped opponent. They won both. 

Thankfully, Osage’s soccer coach Jason Long won’t have to worry about that this season. 

“We had a lack of depth, so it’s nice to have subs,” coach Long said of the growth the program has seen since last season, “We’re definitely in a better position than last year, up to 20 players from 12.”

The larger roster this year gives Osage more depth, and should keep them from having to play more games without a full team, but the influx of new players also comes with some new challenges. 

“We’ve got so many green players, so right now it’s lots of technical work over the first week of practice, “ Long said about what they’ve been focusing on so far with their new-look roster. 

Though they have been working mostly on technical things with the large number of inexperienced younger players, coach Long noted their core of returning players and how many of them played in indoor leagues during the offseason, giving them an edge since they’ve been honing their skills prior to the official high school season beginning. Additionally, he said their five seniors, all of whom have played all four years of high school, will provide valuable leadership to the largely young team. All in all, coach Long feels that the team is coming together well so far and that the players are supporting one another in a developing program. 

“The girls are very excited to be here, we went through some growing pains but they’re staying positive,” he said while discussing the enthusiasm his team is showing in practice, despite the blustering cold they’ve had to contend with. “Even with some of those growing pains, I can go home with a smile knowing the girls are enjoying it.”

Positivity and team cohesion are big parts of the Lady Indians’ plan, with the returning players actively working to make sure the newer players are supported to help in their growth as a team. 

“They’re playing with a lot of positivity, that’s our key. Working hard and enjoying what you do,” said coach Long in regard to how his team is playing and how that affects the growth of the team, “Last week the newcomers were appreciative of the girls’ positivity and the way they noticed and let the team know when they do good things in practice.”

Another obstacle the Lady Indians will need to navigate is spring break and trying to get all the players enough practices in to be eligible for their first game. Coach Long said that with some of the girls missing practices from traveling for spring break that they will likely not have the entire team eligible to play until around their fourth or fifth game of the season. Though he acknowledges they’re working in a growing system and have to deal with the challenges associated with it, Long believes that once the whole team is ready to play, they will field a strong starting 11 and other teams will need to take notice.

“Once we’re in the season, our starting 11 squad should be very competitive. We’ll be pretty tough to beat, lots of schools are going to be watching what these girls can do,” he stated. 

Running a “developing program”, coach Long sees not only the potential for a strong team here and now, but talked about how the girls soccer program at OHS is in a great position for years to come. He said that a large number of seventh and eighth graders coming up in the next couple of years have been part of club teams and will bring considerable skill and experience to the high school level in time to replace the current players graduating over the next two years. 

But for the time being, Long knows that while there may be some growing pains early on, he’s confident that the Lady Indians will be a team that will be in just about every game they play. 

“They know what they’re capable of and they’re bringing a whole lot of energy.”

Osage’s season kicks off at home on Friday, March 18, when they host the Father Tolton Trailblazers at 7 p.m.

The Lake Sun