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Vandebilt seniors leave lessons for teammates


Vandebilt's Kimberly Grasso (7) tries to control the ball during Saturday's title match vs. Ben Franklin (Photo by Benjamin Oliver Hicks/Staff)


Back in 2008 when the Vandebilt Catholic girls soccer team won its first state title, the Lady Terriers had 11 seniors graduate that May.

What came in the coming years was another state title in 2009 and four straight runner-up crowns from 2010-2013.

The last of those runner-up titles came on Saturday when Vandebilt fell to Ben Franklin 2-0 at Tad Gormley Stadium in the Division II title match after a scoreless first half.

Despite the loss of those 11 seniors from the 2008 team, Vandebilt simply reloaded.

Now the Lady Terriers are losing seniors Whitney Champagne, Carly Ellender, Kristy Fazzio, Kimberly Grasso, Morgan Lewis, Shannon Matzke, Makelle Peña, Abby Thibodeaux and Kayla Wayne, and two senior managers — Cristina Tefel and Sylvia Masters — and will now look to a new group of players to step up and lead.

The loss of senior leaders Peña, Grasso and Ellender will be especially difficult for the Lady Terriers to overcome, but Lady Terriers coach Phillip Amedee said he feels this next wave of Vandebilt players is up to the challenge.

"We recovered from that in 2008," Amedee said. "We will be young. We may take some lumps early, but we can make a run (getting back to state). I am confident the young players will step up. They know what it takes to win. They have been here. I am sure they will step up and replace these players just like Carly, Makelle and Kim did when they were younger."

Despite the pain in their hearts after a fourth-straight title game loss, the Vandebilt seniors set examples for the younger girls on and off the field.

In fact, Peña, Grasso and Ellender were the first ones to lineup and shake hands following the loss to Ben Franklin on Saturday, despite the agony of losing four state title matches in a row.

"Class players all the way around," Amedee said of his seniors. "Not only do they have tremendous soccer talent and leadership, they are going to be great leaders in our community."

For Grasso, she wants to make sure the younger Lady Terriers remember some lessons taught from the seniors.

"We just want them to remember to always work hard, and never give up until the end," Grasso said. "We know they can accomplish just as much as we did if not more."

Ellender had the same sort of feelings as Grasso.

"Our seniors hopefully left an impression on these younger ones," Ellender said. "I have so much confidence in the younger ones because they are amazing players, and I know they are going to do so much for our school and our soccer team."

And even though the Lady Terriers finished 27-3-1 overall but fell short of gold, Peña said the Vandebilt program is stronger than one team or one group of players.

"They will be very competitive because that is how Vandebilt is and that is our program. I wish them the best next year, and I know they are going to be successful," Peña said. "It was a great season, and I enjoyed every bit of this year."

Sophomore goalie Marianne Clark said she appreciated what the Lady Terriers seniors did for the team.

"The seniors really taught us great leadership. It was the best group of seniors I have ever been around," Clark said. "They kept us motivated the whole year, and they kept working until the end. I am proud of them. They taught us to work as hard as we possibly can and never give up."

Eighth-grader Grace Champagne said she won't forget what the 2013 seniors meant to the team and that the Lady Terriers, who will have just two seniors next season, are focused on future success.

"They gave us support and helped us learn and showed us what to be like," Champagne said. "We have the potential. We have a good group of girls coming up."