With Districts at FHN, Lady Knights Aim to Overcome Home Struggles against Pattonville


Credit to Savannah Wandzel

Senior goalkeeper Caty Arnold collects the ball with junior Karen Pete watching vs. Marquette on 5/3.

By Dominic Hoscher, FHNGameday.com Editor

It’s the time of the year where each decision made on the field, and every substitution and move made by the coaching staff on the sideline could determine the outcome of their team’s season. Postseason soccer have an entirely different feeling due to this, making the climax of the spring sports season all the more exciting.

“It’s a one game tournament. This is what you’ve worked for. Everybody’s in it, everybody has a chance, this is the most exciting thing in high school sports,” head coach Mark Olwig said. “Regular season and all of that is fun, but this is when it counts. This is the time that all of your hard work for three months really pays off and as long as we give 110% and do what we’re capable of doing, we’ll be fine.”

Howell North’s varsity girls soccer team got off to a bit of a slow start in 2018, going 3-6-1 in their opening 10 fixtures. However, over the past month the Lady Knights have found their stride, winning eight of their last nine with the only loss being against the Francis Howell Vikings on May 1.

“I think we’ve really improved,” junior defender Karen Pete said. “As coach [Olwig] says, it’s a learning curve and a marathon, not a sprint. As the games have gone by, we’ve been improving and haven’t lost in the last couple of games.”

Winners of four straight, Howell North enters their first match of districts against the Pattonville Pirates with plenty of confidence. But it won’t come easy in the tournament’s curtain raiser, as the Pirates are one of the strongest teams in the area at 18-4.

One of the biggest reasons as to why they’ve had such a successful season is because of their high-flying offense. The attacking unit has posted a whopping 63 goals this campaign, being led by electric goalscorers Kendall Battle (20 goals), Cameryn McGee (19 goals) and Kaeli Benedict (11 goals). Coach Olwig and the Lady Knights know that it will be a challenge to slow down the Pirates’ lethal attack, but remain confident in doing so.

“I’m hoping that our ball control and us keeping the ball will be our best defense,” Olwig said. “They do have some quality players and a couple big goalscorers up top but we have to focus on our game and what we need to do as a team.”

They’re not the only ones who will be featuring quality talent on the field tonight. Focusing on the offensive side of the ball, Howell North is led by junior midfielder Abbie Miller, who leads the team in goals with nine, and left back Sam Cary, who’s top in assists with 14. While neither are playing in true attacking positions, both will need to be strong up front to contest with Pattonville’s opposing numbers.

Districts will take place at FHN this week, which may not play to the Lady Knights’ strengths as much as one might think. At home, Howell North is just 3-5 on the season as opposed to being 8-2-1 on the road. As districts are finally here, the Lady Knights are looking to finally reach the consistency level at home needed to make a deep postseason run.

“We hope that our home-field advantage will be to our advantage, but it’s districts, anything can happen,” Olwig said. “All of the teams are quality in our district so we just need to come out and play.”

If the Lady Knights were to overcome the Pirates, they’d face either Hazelwood West or their rival Francis Howell Central Spartans on Thursday night in the districts championship. Each team finished over .500 in the regular season, and all boast strong chances in winning the entire tournament. But to the players and coaches, what happened in the regular season makes little difference now. The postseason is an entirely new season, where anything can happen.

“It’s the playoffs, so you throw all of the records out the window,” Olwig said. “Any given day, anything can happen so you just really have to be prepared to play and it’s a one-game tournament. This is what Howell North’s soccer program’s been about forever. They come to compete in districts and make runs, and we’re hoping to do it again.”