Senior goalkeeper Natalie Beltran is the backbone of the Southgate Anderson team. Photo by Larry Caruso

BY Hank Minckiewicz

The numbers are not great. The Anderson girls soccer team has just 17 players this year. Eleven of them have never played higher than recreation soccer and there is no junior varsity team.

But veteran coach Larry Lankford is not complaining.

He has a small core of solid veteran players and the newcomers – with very limited practice time – are coming together more quickly than he had even dared to hope.

“We have been better than I expected. I have been impressed,” Lankford said. “We have a lot of beginners, but the girls have learned quickly and they played above themselves.”

The Titans opened the season with a 2-0 victory over Taylor and followed it up with a 5-2 loss to a strong Carlson team. Lankford was disappointed with the loss, but pleased with his team’s performance.

“It was 2-2 at halftime and, if we hadn’t made a mistake late in the first half, we would have been leading 2-1,” he said. “It was a strong first half by us. We were really excited with the effort.”

The Titans played well in the second half, too, but Carlson took advantage of a couple breakdowns and scored three times. Southgate was not without its scoring chances, with one shot ringing off the goal post.”

As they expected, the Titans have gotten great play from senior goalkeeper Natalie Beltran.

“Natalie has been fantastic,” said Lankford. “She’s a great keeper. She’s great out of the net, too, but we can’t afford to have her play out.

“A great keeper can keep a team like ours in the game and it gives us a lot of confidence and she has already made some amazing saves this season.”

Fellow senior Brooke McClure, who scored 22 goals the last time she played for the Titans, which was in 2018, is back and doing her thing. She had two goals and three points in the team’s first two games.

Morgan Faryniarz, another senior, keys the defense and junior Miranda Graham is another offensive threat. She had 10 goals as a freshman on the varsity in 2019.

“We have some solid players with a lot of talent,” said Lankford.

With so many newcomers and inexperienced players, Lankford said it’s hard to judge just what kind of season the Titans will have, but after seeing his team on the pitch, he said he is excited about the Titans’ upside.

“We’re not really about setting goals this year,” he said. “We plan to teach’em, let’em learn and see how we progress.”

The Titans have 11 games scheduled this year, plus three Downriver League position games. In addition to games with its league opponents, Anderson will play Redford Thurston, Melvindale and Garden City.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association district tournament begins May 26 and Southgate will be at Trenton along with the host Trojans, Allen Park, Carleton Airport, Carlson, News Boston Huron and Riverview.

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