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Despite battling injury bug, Mehlville soccer coach pleased with team's play

The injury bug has bitten the Mehlville Senior High School girls' soccer team.

The Panthers (8-8, 1-6 Suburban West) have lost five games in a row and have been on the receiving end of three consecutive shutouts. Yet Mehlville head coach Scott Jackson is upbeat about his team's play after losing four starters for possibly the rest of the season.

"We've actually been playing pretty well," Jackson said. "We've lost four starters probably for the rest of the season, but I think we've surpassed our goals and the girls have really taken a step forward this season."

Mehlville was 0-12 with a 0-4 mark in conference play last season.

Jackson hopes that senior defender Catrina Dittman, junior defender Cara Stuckel and sophomores Lauren Spurr (midfield) and Melissa Giorgi (goalkeeper) will be ready for the district playoffs. Currently, the Panthers have a freshman goalkeeper with Michelle Smith sharing time with sophomore Kris Hines.

"We're struggling at the goalkeeper position and people are definitely taking advantage of that," Jackson said. "We're lacking experience of playing that position at the varsity level right now."

Jackson is impressed with how comfortable Smith is at the position and envisions her as being the goalkeeper of the future for the Panthers.

"Michelle is very athletic," Jackson said. "I like what I see and she seems very comfortable back there."

The Panthers found themselves in a tough battle with conference heavyweight Lafayette last Friday as they held the Lancers to a 0-0 tie at the half. But with 14 minutes to play in the second half, the Lancers received a goal from Lauren Howell and followed up with another goal by Heidi Helfers to hand Mehlville a 2-0 loss.

Jackson cited the lack of a strong bench along with the heat as just a few factors for the Panthers loss against the Lancers.

"We really took it to Lafayette in the first half," Jackson said. "We just wore down in the second half and they ended up having four to five kids coming off the bench during every substitution."

The Panthers are slated to play at Collinsville at 7 p.m. today —†May 13 — in a non-conference match, but Jackson may cancel the game altogether since his team's bench lacks depth and a good rest before the district tournament may be what the team really needs. The Collinsville game had been rescheduled from earlier in the season due to a rainout.

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