Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Independence seniors provided leadership

Columbia’s 5-0 win over Independence in a Division III sectional semifinal on Monday ended the Blue Devils’ season. It also closed out the careers of four Independence seniors who gave so much to the program.

Krista DeFini, Julia Gutermuth, Ashley Henderson and Lauren Taras all saw their high school playing days come to an end.

“Overall, they did a nice job of working and showing up in the off-season and pushing to the younger players the importance of showing up and trying to be in shape for the season,” said Independence coach Bryan Less. “They did a nice job instilling the work ethic and pushed the girls. This year we had a nice crop of freshmen so they were encouraging and never felt like the freshmen were stepping on their toes, even when I moved some of the field players around. It never seemed like they were worried about losing their place. This year especially, it seemed like there was a team first mentality with them.”

DeFini was a three-year starter at goalkeeper. She closed out her career as the school leader in saves for a season (202) and in a career (410). She recorded 13 shutouts and was a two-time all-Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division performer and was named first team all-Greater Cleveland as a junior.

“Krista was really rough her freshman year,” Less said. “She didn't have a lot of knowhow in the net. She worked and did everything I told her and she went to trainings on her own and she turned herself into a fine little goalie. It was her just willing herself to get that ability and she ended up with the single season saves record by 40-plus saves and the career record too and she only started three years.”

Gutermuth scored 12 goals and assisted on seven others in her Independence career. She led the team in scoring with four goals and three assists this season. She was named second team all-CVC as a junior and senior and honorable mention all-Greater Cleveland as a junior.

“Julia actually developed herself a very nice outside shot,” Less said. “This year she was one of the girls I could rely on to give us an outside shot if she was open. That was something we needed and she ended the season as our leading scorer. We needed that because we had a lot of young players on offense and she did a nice job working with them.”

Henderson battled injuries over the past two seasons but closed out her career with 18 goals and nine assists, including six goals and two assists this fall. She was named all-CVC honorable mention as a freshman and senior, second team as a sophomore and first team as a junior. She also earned all-Greater Cleveland honors as a sophomore (honorable mention) and junior (second team).

“She was a four-year starter and all-conference each year,” Less said. “I give her a ton of credit. She came back from two pretty major injuries. She missed most of last season with a concussion then tore up her knee and worked her butt of to get back this year. I give her a ton of credit for being determined to come back from those injuries.”

Taras only played two years for the Blue Devils but she was a perfect role model for the younger players on the team.

“She only played two years of soccer but she was a very hard working player and she always wanted to get better. She asked a ton of questions,” Less said.

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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