• Seniors provide leadership for youthful Indians

  • On a squad full of freshmen, Alli Ventresca and Mercedes Marriott have given the Fort Osage girls soccer team a couple of reliable stalwarts.

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  • On a squad full of freshmen, Alli Ventresca and Mercedes Marriott have given the Fort Osage girls soccer team a couple of reliable stalwarts.
    Of the 17 players listed on the Indians’ roster, 10 are freshmen. Four of them started Tuesday against William Chrisman, as well as two sophomores. But Tuesday was a night set aside to honor Fort’s four seniors – Ventresca, Marriott, Thea Wenaas and Johanna Johnsen. Ventresca and Marriott, both four-year starters who have earned a bevy of all-conference and Examiner All-Area honors, figured prominently in a 6-1 Suburban Middle Seven Conference Senior Night victory at Fort Osage High School.
    Marriott knocked in three goals and Ventresca tallied an assist and controlled the midfield to complement freshmen Leigh-Anne Bartlett’s four-assist and Aspen O’Neal’s two-goal efforts. Sophomore Zoe Bedsworth recorded Fort’s other score.
    “It was really hard starting off,” Marriott said. “We were all really nervous about (Senior Night) and all full of emotion since graduation is in a week. But we took care of business. It felt good.”
    With the hoard of underclassmen on the field, Ventresca’s and Marriott’s roles have been magnified. It’s fallen on them to foster chemistry, and it’s been their responsibility to make sure everyone’s up to varsity speed.
    “We showed them how to play on the field,” Ventresca said. “The way we play is the way they play. They mimic us, so we need to do our duties on the field.”
    It would have been easy to chalk this up as a transition season, but the young Indians have produced a winning record, improving to 10-8-1 and 7-4 in conference. And they’ve done it by utilizing quick, sharp passes – like the dishes Bartlett delivered across the goal area in the 42nd and 60th minutes for Fort’s fourth and sixth goals.
    “Obviously the freshmen are getting a lot of attention in school and media and stuff like that,” Indians coach Andrew Fletcher said. “But Alli and ‘Cedie’ have been with the program for four years, so they know the expectations. I think they were glad that we had some really good players for their senior year because we lost so many last year. The timing was excellent.”
    Marriott put the Indians up 1-0 in the fourth minute on a breakaway score and O’Neal made it 2-0 13 minutes later.
    Chrisman (4-9, 2-8) battled back with a goal from Makenzie Erikson in the 27th minute, but O’Neal scored again a minute and a half before halftime.
    “Fort Osage has a really good young team that works really hard off the ball,” Chrisman coach John Straub said. “They created lots of opportunities.”
    While Fort’s record is solid, Fletcher said even the eight defeats are a little deceiving. Four of those were by just one goal. At this point, the squad is exceeding his expectations.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We’ve lost a couple games late, a couple games we dominated and just couldn’t score,” he said. “So it’s just a learning curve and I figured we’d have more games like that, but the talent level is so high. I think we’re ahead of where we ought to be.”
    Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC

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