CHAMPAIGN — Mahomet-Seymour girls' soccer is going to look a little different this spring. The Bulldogs will have to replace star Meredith Johnson-Monfort.
Johnson-Monfort is currently playing for the University of Illinois, and she left M-S as the single-season and career scoring leader.
But the Bulldogs got off to a good start on Monday in their first match without Johnson-Monfort. Senior Maddy Wade, junior Brooke Benson and freshman Brea Benson all scored two goals as M-S whooped University High 8-0 at the University of Illinois' turf fields.
"I've been out of the high school soccer scene for a while, so coming in last year, I didn't even know Meredith," M-S coach Kelsie Donley Briggs said. "I was highly impressed with her last year, but I only had one year of her. To me, it's not a huge change without her because I only had that one year. For the team, though, we've talked about it. It's changing the way we play. We don't have one girl up top that we can play the ball to and count on that one person to plow through all the defense, but that's okay. We'll just have to move the ball around quicker, and tonight we did just that. I don't think it'll be a huge problem."
M-S is aiming for a fourth straight regional championship, and Briggs believes her squad is as deep as you'll see in the area. Cayla Koerner and Maddie Louis also chipped in with goals on Monday. Koerner and senior Haley Lester both dished out two assists, and keeper Alese Hutchison pitched a shutout.
"We have so much talent and depth on the bench," Briggs said. "It's hard to choose starters because there are so many talented girls. I think this will be a great team."
Louis and Wade are two tough seniors who will lead the way this season. Louis was a first-team All-Area selection last year by The News-Gazette.
"(Louis) had a goal tonight, so that was really impressive," Briggs said. "It was a really great give-and-go where she came in through the middle and smashed it in. High expectations for her this year, and I know she's going to do great."
But Briggs also has a strong freshman class that has a high upside. Koerner and Brea Benson both had strong debuts, and the freshmen have assimilated amongst the upperclassmen smoothly.
Briggs was a star on the mound for the Bulldogs from 2006 to 2010. Her former basketball coach, Nathan Seal, shot her a "good luck" text before her first game.
Briggs admitted she was a little nervous before the game, but the nerves settled down and M-S delivered her a stress-free first win.
"They were good ner-ves," Briggs said. "I was so excited. I played here at Mahomet, and it means a lot to coach my hometown, and it brings back the memories. I'm raising a daughter, and I hope to see her play through this program one day. So, it's exciting. It means a lot!"
The Bulldogs will be back in action at 5 p.m. Tuesday when they host Warrensburg-Latham at Middletown Field. On Thursday, the Bulldogs will host Metamora at 6:30 at Middletown Field.
"I have high expectations, I'll leave it at that," Briggs said. "We can do as hard as we're going to work. I don't want to put a limit on the things this group could do."