An opportunity arose this fall for Clare Lenart, and she ran with it.
Lenart and her Seymour High School girls soccer teammates were devastated when they found out senior leading scorer Maile Grout’s injury early in the season would sideline her for the remainder of the year. The team and coaches turned to Lenart to be the scorer, and the junior responded.
Lenart had 19 goals and 13 assists in the Owls’ 17 matches, and many of those goals came after Grout’s injury. Grout had 20 goals and five assists in only seven-and-a-half games.
“I didn’t know what to think at first,” Lenart said of Grout’s injury. “I guess we were a little scared, kind of trying to transition into it. But we really stepped up and were able to fill her leadership role and control the field. A few of the players definitely had to step up and be the motivational players for the rest of the girls because (Grout) always led us.”
Along the way, Lenart set the record for assists in a game with five, and she tied the season assists record. She was named the team’s most valuable player, earned all-Hoosier Hills Conference honors and was selected as one of the district’s top team players.
Now, she can add The Tribune’s 2012 Athlete of the Year for girls soccer to her season accomplishments.
Going from a pass-first mentality to scoring was an adjustment for Lenart.
“It was a big change, because I always liked having Maile there and being able to pass off with her and Brielyn (Tidd) and everybody,” she said. “My teammates would be like, ‘Hey, come on Clare, you can get through this and we can work together.’ It was definitely some pressure, but it worked out. I loved it. It was so much fun to be able to know that they looked up to me to be the leader of the team.”
Coach Greg Musser said Lenart “met the challenge head-on.”
“As the season went on, we were able to get into her head, and she started trusting her skills and used them to exploit other teams down the left side of the field,” Musser said. “Once she started this, she was able to get a lot more quality chances for goals and assists. Her confidence in herself and teammates was a major factor in her success as the season went on.”
Musser said Lenart was a unanimous choice as one of the team captains.
“From day one, Clare acted like she had something to prove,” Musser said. “She was the first one there in the mornings and the last one to leave after practice was over. I think the other girls really responded to that. Clare is one of our most gifted players, and when others see her constantly working at 100 percent and working on skills after practice, it inspires them to work harder.”
Grout and Tidd were the other team captains.
“It was definitely an honor that the team looked up to me to be able to select me as one of the captains,” Lenart said. “I definitely worked hard to try to do my best to keep everything moving through the game and help everybody along as much as I could. I love being able to be a leader and be a role model for the rest of the team.”
Last weekend, Lenart played in the Indiana Elite North-South All-Star Challenge at Carmel. In the spring, she will begin her second season with the Columbus Express Soccer Club. She hopes both of those experiences will help as she prepares for her senior season.
“Definitely having a touch on the ball all year-round and not losing conditioning, and you can always learn more moves and skills and confidence and stuff like that,” she said of the advantages of playing club ball. “I can’t wait (for her senior year). I’m so excited already. I’m definitely working hard in the offseason to try to reach more goals and hopefully make the district team and lead the team throughout another season.”
Musser said he, too, is anxious to see what Lenart does as a senior.
“Clare is one of those players you love to have on your team but hate to play against. She never takes a play off, which makes it extremely hard to mark her as well as lose her when she marks you,” he said. “I am thrilled that I have had the chance to coach her this year, and I am really looking forward to seeing what she can do next season. I have a feeling she is going to open a lot of eyes around our district and hopefully the state of Indiana.”
Lenart is joined by the following girls on The Tribune’s all-county team:
Maile Grout, Seymour: Senior had 20 goals and five assists in only seven-and-a-half games before suffering an injury; set the school record for goals in a game with eight in the 23-0 win against Scottsburg; named to the all-district second team.
Brielyn Tidd, Seymour: Junior had six goals and nine assists in 13 games while battling an injury; earned HHC honorable mention.
Kelsey Nolting, Seymour: Senior had one goal and one assist; anchored the defense; earned HHC honorable mention.
Zoe Cummings, Seymour: Senior goalkeeper had 135 saves on 169 shots abd posted six shutouts; played on offense in half of a game and scored two goals.
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