How do you replace 44 goals?

That’s a tricky question. 

The Green Wave lost their all-time leading scorer from last year’s team.

On the other hand the team returns four All-Apollo selections from a tam that set multiple program records, including for wins.

So it should not be a surprise if this team has another wildly successful season in head coach Ryan Ghere’s final season. 

There’s no way to really replace a player like Faith Niebrugge, who earned all-American status this past fall playing at Parkland College. Niebrugge set a school-record of 44 goals last season, finishing with 122 across three seasons for the all-time career record. Niebrugge, an All-Sectional player, was the team’s leading scorer for each of the past three seasons. 

“Faith is a big loss,” said Ryan Ghere. “She has been our leading goal scorer for the past three seasons, but I believe that we have a good group of players to replace her. We don’t necessarily need one person to replace the production of Faith.”

The team returns its other prolific scorer – two-time all-state senior Lily Ghere.

Ghere is the the school’s all-time leader in assists with 69 after setting the season record last season with 42, which helped earn a second All-State honor by the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association (IHSSCA). Lily Ghere also scored 37 goals.

Mattoon’s offense was potent last season, outscoring opponents 131-29 in winning a school-record 19 games. 

The team set several other records – most goals (131), most assists (113), most shutouts (13, Avery Smith)

The Green Wave are 3-0 heading into Thursday’s championship game of the St. Teresa tournament that has been moved to Mattoon High School, beginning at 5 p.m. MHS won the tournament last season.

Ghere believes that his daughter is not the only top offensive option on the team. She is joined by All-Apollo First Team member Bella Masse and Second-Team selections Gabi Ray and Marley VanHoveln. Piper Sanders looks to control the midfield as well after starting last season. 

“We need Lily to continue scoring the way she has throughout her career,” said Ghere. “Lily is going to need to look to score a little more this season. She has led the team in assists the past two seasons. Piper Sanders had a great start to the season with three goals in our opener versus Danville. I feel that if Piper, Gabi, Masse, and Marley can step up and each improve their goal-scoring output from last year, we will have a great season. Bella and Gabi have both improved their passing since last year.  They need to control the middle for us.”

’22 MHS leading scorers

Faith Niebrugge4418
Lily Ghere3742
Piper Sanders178
Bella Masse1012
Gabi Ray75

The Green Wave set a school record with 13 shutouts last season behind multiyear starting goalkeeper Averie Smith, who has graduated.   

Annabelle Lee should be in goal this season, competing with first-time player Jessica Evans for the starting job. On the defensive front, VanHoveln returns along with Kameron Lathrop, who was an Honorable-Mention All-Sectional pick last season. Lily Gregory, Reese Updegraff and Taylor Kovach also return. 

“Our defense has a lot of experience from last year,” said Ghere. “They all have played a lot of high school soccer as well as club.  We should be solid in the back.  Right now we have two goalkeepers competing for the starting spot.  We have an experienced goalkeeper in Annabelle Lee and a first-time player in Jessica Evans.  Both have shown improvement in the first three weeks of practice this year.”

’22 Apollo standings

Mt. Zion 64017
Charleston 2628

Last year was a historic season for the Green Wave, but the team finished second in the Apollo, losing twice to undefeated Mahomet to finish second at 8-2. MHS advanced to the IHSA regional championship, where it lost 2-1 in an intense match with Mascoutah.

“One goal this year includes winning a regional championship,” said Ryan Ghere. “We were so close last year when we lost in overtime in the Regional Final.  We want to compete for a conference championship as well.  Last year we won a program record 19 wins.  We would like to surpass that this year as well.”


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