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South Huron Rush return to action with two wins

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EXETER – After they were unable to play last year due to the pandemic, the South Huron Rush are excited to be back on the soccer pitch this year competing in the London and Area Women’s Soccer League.

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And they’re off to a great start, winning their first game of the season July 16 in Belmont 5-0, and following it up with  a 7-0 victory at home in Exeter July 19 versus Coldstream.

Due to the ever-changing restrictions under the pandemic, the team hasn’t had as much practice time as they would during a typical season. While normally the team would be able to practice for at least a month before the season started, coach and manager Tim Hundey said due to COVID-19 restrictions the Rush didn’t start practicing until about two weeks before the season started.

He said this year’s lineup has a similar makeup to what he would have fielded last year if the season took place, and the Rush have a solid returning core from the 2019 season. Captain Maria Knip is back, and Hundey said he’s expecting big things from Rachel Vanderlaan, who stepped in at the end of the 2019 season, “and she was phenomenal,” Hundey said. He also pointed out Colleen O’Reilly as a player to watch up the middle.

The coach has high hopes for new strikers Cassidy O’Hearn from St. Marys and Kelly Alexander, who comes from a premier team in London.

“I’m thinking they’re going to be a dynamic duo up front,” Hundey said.

Due to the pandemic, some of the league’s divisions have been combined for this season, Hundey said, and some teams folded. The Rush have added three players from a Nairn team that folded – Frankie Diggins, Ashley Royackers and Jen Roelands.

“We’re adding new players but a lot of these players have played together before, and they’re veteran players that know what it takes to win at this level.”

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In net for the Rush this season is Alyssa Stephens, who returns to the team after a six-year absence.

A few Rush players from the past aren’t playing this season, but Hundey expects them to return next year.

Hundey described himself as “cautiously optimistic” heading into the season but admitted that there are unknowns since it’s been a while since everybody has played.

Overall Hundey said he thinks the Rush have a well-rounded roster this season. He said the team will be very strong up the middle, and he expects the Rush will have more offense than it has in the past, although the team will maintain its defensive strategy.

“I think we’ll be more high scoring than we have been in the past,” Hundey said. “Our style will continue to be defense first, but I think we’re going to be able to spring them a bit more.”

Hundey said the team is excited to be back on the field after a year off.

“It’s so nice. Everyone is so enthusiastic just to play soccer, to be out there in the open air, seeing their friends again … The enthusiasm for practice has been good.”

While the Rush are competing in the third division this year, Hundey expects the team to return to their typical second division next season. A different division this year means competing against teams the Rush aren’t familiar with.

“I think it’s going to be interesting,” Hundey said of the season. “It’s almost like a bonus season, because for a stretch there it looked like we wouldn’t get a season again.”

Things aren’t quite back to normal yet: home teams have to COVID trace and have the members of the opposing team and fans sign in. There will also be a hand sanitizer station, and fans are expected to social distance.

The next home game for the Rush is Mon., Aug. 2 when they host Taxandria C at 8:30 p.m. They’ll then host the Eagles later in the week on Thurs., Aug. 5 at 6:30 p.m.

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