By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Abby Grawe sees the bigger picture.
Sure, she and the rest of the Quincy Notre Dame girls soccer players have their sights set on defending their Class 1A state championship, something the Lady Raiders seem capable of doing with their returning firepower.
While pursuing that, they are building for the future at the same time.
It's part of the legacy of the QND program. The Lady Raiders fill any void left by graduation and keep on winning.
"I think it's very comforting," said Grawe, a senior midfielder and a four-year varsity player. "After I graduate, I know coming back we'll have a great team. When the freshmen we have now graduate, we'll still have a great program.
"You know that is never going to change."
That's why the Lady Raiders remain title contenders.
Gone from last year's state championship team are the leading goal scorer who was a two-time all-stater, a four-year varsity player in the midfield, a goalkeeper who had a standout freshman season last fall for an improving NAIA program and a host of others who played critical roles.
It might seem like a lot if not for one thing. Their replacements were waiting in the wings.
"Kids know if they work hard and do what they're supposed to do we'll see it," QND coach Mark Longo said. "We'll see them. We'll see the hard work they're putting in and they'll get their opportunity at some point in time."
So Hannah Thomas and Hannah Cobb will get the chance to help replace Shannon Foley at forward.
Grawe becomes the anchor at midfield after filling whatever role was needed the last three years.
And two keepers — Grace Horman and Julie Rabe — are gaining the confidence of their coaches,
"From what we've seen in practice, we should be pretty good there," Longo said.
He expects that to the case up front.
Junior forward Cassidy Foley is coming off an all-state campaign in which she finished with 37 goals and 24 assists and forms a potent 1-2 punch with senior forward Jordan Frericks, who had 25 goals and 25 assists last season.
They understand their play is seen as one of the team's strength, but their focus is on competing and improving.
"Everybody wants to win," Foley said. "We're all really competitive. If you watch us in practice, we're all really competitive. We all want to win, and we all want each other to succeed."
That competitive drive is a big reason the Lady Raiders don't worry about the pressure to repeat,
"We can't really think about it," Foley said. "We can't get ahead of ourselves. We have to come out and play our game."
The pressure to perform will be there no matter what.
"I tend to think we always have pressure," Longo said. "We always have that target. People always measure their program on how they do against ours. It's not going to be any different than it has been since 1996 or '97."
The attitude of the players isn't any different either.
"We're motivated to work even harder because we want to go back and win it again," Grawe said.
Coach: Mark Longo (417-72-55 at QND, 24th season)
2012 record: 28-0 (beat Manteno 3-0 for the Class 1A state championship)
Returning starters: F Cassidy Foley, Jr.; F Jordan Frericks, Sr.; MF Abby Grawe, Sr.
Other returning letterwinners: D Shelby Ulrich, Jr.; D Kari Ann Steinbrecher, Jr.; F Hannah Thomas, Soph.; F Hannah Cobb, Soph.; D Hannah Marcolla, Jr.
New faces: GK Grace Horman, Jr.; GK Julie Rabe, Fr.; MF Riley Hummert, Fr.
Key losses: F Shannon Foley, MF Kate Genenbacher, GK Mackenzie Little, D Hannah Witte, D Maty Waterkotte, D Macy Willer, MF Torre Stark, MF McKenna Murphy