Emily Schmelling is the senior citizen of the Sprague High School girls soccer team. The three-year starter at goalkeeper is the only senior on the roster, and she is the voice of experience as the longest tenured player on the team.
"She does everything you'd ask of her," Sprague coach Kevin Plechl said. "She's been a great leader. We only have the one captain, which is her right now. She's got my coaching philosophy down and implementing it very well right now."
When there are multiple freshmen on the field – as was the case at points Thursday afternoon against South Medford – Schmelling is leaned on heavily.
Sprague (2-2) fell behind big in the first half, but managed to keep the Panthers (2-1) at bay most of the second half in a 5-0 loss Thursday afternoon in a nonleague game.
"We had a little bit easier first two games and we came out strong in those and we pulled it back in the first one and then we came out strong in the second," said Schmelling, a first-team all-Greater Valley Conference selection as a junior. "And our last game (a 3-2 loss to Glencoe) we played well. The score didn't reflect it.
"Today we were just tired. We weren't ready to come out, but in the second half we played better. I feel like as the season progresses we'll understand how to play against a tough team and build and play together as one."
The lack of experience in the Olympians showed.
"We're struggling a little bit against some of the more dominant teams to connect passes, and I feel we're a bit of our own worst enemy," Plechl said. "We tend to panic a little bit and give some easy passes away."
Sprague was able to stay connected better defensively in the second half and shut out the Panthers until Renae Nisbet booted a high-arching shot from 40 yards out over Schmelling's reach with a minute remaining.
If Sprague is going to compete with the top girls soccer teams in the Greater Valley Conference, the team will need Schmelling's influence, especially with a young roster.
"I feel like in our league we'll be very strong," Schmelling said. "I feel like we understand how to play well, we just didn't have our day today."