Hit hard with key losses to graduation, the Ada High School girls soccer team will need youth to step up in 2017.

The Lady Cougars are coming off a 10-4 record, including a perfect 6-0 district mark, and a Class 4A playoff berth in 2016.

Ada now must enter the 2017 campaign without two all-state performers — midfielder Cassidy Walsh and goalkeeper Fisher Fulton — along with several other key players who exhausted their eligibility.

“Cassidy scored most of our goals and is going to be a big-time miss,” said Ada head coach Cole Jones. “We lost several more seniors. We’ve got several freshmen who have to come in and fill big roles. I’ve been impressed with how hard they are working. We hope that our freshmen can step in and create something.”

Key returnees for the Lady Cougars include senior defender Maycee Bottoms, junior midfielder Sadie Criswell, senior midfielder Madison Feezle and senior forward Rumor Lejeune.

Bottoms will anchor the backline as a central defender.

“We expect Maycee to be a big contributor during her senior year,” Jones said. “She started all of last year. She’s someone you can really trust and count on. She’s a soccer-smart kid.”

Criswell will play the holding (or defensive midfield) position.

“She’s a really good, talented player and pretty smart,” said Jones.

Feezle is expected to occupy an outside midfield spot.

“She uses her speed quite a bit,” Jones said.

Lejeune has signed to play at East Central University this fall.

“She’s really speedy, really quick and can get behind the back line,” said Jones.

BOYS

Ada suffered three key losses to graduation in goalie Shiloh Windsor, midfielder Levi Grimes and Brody McDonald.

“The boys have a lot of returning players,” Jones said. “We’re pretty excited, and we’re clicking well at practice.”

The Cougars, 7-7 a year ago, actually have three goalkeeping options in sophomore Tyde Thomsen, junior Grant Bellard and junior Daniel Gutierrez.

Gutierrrez will likely spend a lot of his playing time as a midfielder.

Junior Adrian Burdon returns to the midfield as well.

“Adrian is a guy we will lean on. He’s pretty solid and has a great left foot,” said Jones. “He’s very soccer smart and is a guy who is in the right place at the right time.”

Returning to the midfield with Burdon is junior Andrey Hinson.

“Andrey is a holding midfielder and a very talented player from Ukraine,” Jones said. “He has the potential to beat several players.”

Senior Payton Owens will play forward.

“He has some of the most phenomenal footwork,” said Jones. “He’s very quick. I wouldn’t say fast, but explosive.”

Gutierrez is likely to play one of the outside midfield positions.

“He’s not as quick, but when he opens up, he’s one of the fastest on the team and a good leader,” Jones said.

Jones has been pleased with the preseason work ethic of both his girls and boys squads.

“We’ve really challenged them in the offseason. This group has been going at it since December, and I’ve really pushed them,” said Jones.

The schedule

The Ada teams will compete against an opponent for the first time Saturday, when Durant visits for a preseason scrimmage.

A junior varsity girls contest will kick off the scrimmage at 9 a.m., followed by varsity girls at 10 a.m., JV boys at 11 a.m. and varsity boys at noon.

Ada will scrimmage at Weatherford beginning at 9 a.m. Feb. 25.

The Cougar clubs open the 2017 season March 2, when Noble visits the Ada High soccer field.

Teams joining Ada in District 4A-1 this season are Chickasha, Community Christian School, Elgin, Cache, Madill and Newcastle.

Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.