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Lady Rebels soccer coach returns to his roots
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Effingham County’s Savannah Landis (1) hustles to help goalie Sydney Martinez (0) as a couple of Glynn Academy players threaten to score during a game last year at Rebel Field. - photo by Trice Williams

SPRINGFIELD — The man wjp started the Effingham County girls’ soccer team nearly 25 years ago has returned to lead the Lady Rebels this season.

“I had done the administration route and I’m nearing retirement, so I came back,” head coach Wade Wright said. “I’ve always lived in Effingham from all the places I’ve gone. I’ve been a principal, AD, a dean —  I’ve done all that stuff. I just came back and said, ‘I’d like to go back to the classroom and teach a little bit.’”

Much has changed since Wright last coached at Effingham County and his trip down memory lane proves how far soccer at the school has come.

“When we first started, where the football team practices right by the baseball field, that’s where we played soccer games,” Wright said. “Then we went inside the track, and where the stadium is used to be a gravel, rocky patch of land. It’s already been real interesting and unique.”

And although much has changed in terms of the landscape, Wright is looking forward to being back at the helm and leading his young nucleus of players. Because there is so much youth, he’s made a few changes and is hopeful they will pay off.

“I’ve asked some players to play some different positions,” he said. “I can’t say enough about Ansley Skinner and Savannah Landis. I can’t say enough about them because I’m moving them around. I’m moving them in places they weren’t normally in. 

“Cameron Long, I’m putting her up front to do some different things and she’s always played outside midfielder.”

The biggest loss for the Rebels was the graduation of Sydney Martinez who is starting at goalkeeper for South Florida.

“That’s the key loss,” Wright said.t “We are never going to replace her.”

Twelve of his 20 players are underclassmen but the young talent has caught Wright’s eye.

“There’s enough returning to give us strength and effectiveness,” Wright said, “but there are some really good young players. Alex Valdez has really been impressive in this early part of practice. 

“I’ve been real impressed with the effort of Ashlynn Goff.”

And the returning veterans bring enough experience and talent to make the team go.

“There’s some pretty good talent,” Wright said. “Bailey Hilderbrandt, Cat Hall and Megan Zeldenrust. There’s enough returning to give us a nucleus of strength and effectiveness.”

 Wright isn’t fazed by the lack of experience. He believes everything will come together if they can dominate in practice.

 “I’ve been doing this for 32 years,” he said. “The bottom line is you’ve got what you’ve got and go play with what you have. If I prepare them in practice to the best of their ability, then let’s go out there and see what happens.

“Win, lose or draw. we get to get better from that game.”