Lenape's Ross back for more

Lenape forward Rachelle Ross "is clearly a phenomenal individual player," says her coach, Kevin Meder.
Lenape forward Rachelle Ross "is clearly a phenomenal individual player," says her coach, Kevin Meder. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 05, 2013

It's a familiar position for Rachelle Ross.

Her back is to the net, inside the 18-yard box, with only a single defender between her and the goal.

There might not be a more dangerous sight for opponents of the Lenape girls' soccer team this season.

"It's a position I've always kind of done well in, but it's also something I've worked really hard on: getting the ball around the net, quick touches, turn and shoot," said Ross, a senior striker for the Indians.

Ross has used the move successfully in some of the biggest games of her high school career. She netted the winner in Lenape's 1-0 victory over Shawnee in last year's Coaches Tournament semifinals. She did the same in the Group 4 sectional final, a 1-0 win over her team's rival, Eastern.

Throughout her career, Ross hasn't been known for scoring in bulk as much as she has been known for scoring in big moments - for showing poise and determination under pressure.

That much shouldn't change this year. And Lenape coach Kevin Meder expects those attributes to aid Ross as she assumes the role of senior leader on the state's most successful girls' soccer program.

"Rachelle is clearly a phenomenal individual player. She's smart, she's strong, and she's fast," Meder said. "But now she's stepping into a role where she's really trying to make everyone else around her better. And I think she thrives in that role.

"Being that target type of player is one of her greatest strengths," Meder added. "But Rachelle has always strived to be more than that on this team. She's accepted that responsibility, and I think she enjoys that responsibility."

Leadership is something Ross said she has been focused on this preseason.

"I do try to be vocal, to get the team pumped up whenever I can," she said. "I want to show the younger players what it takes to succeed in this program."

Along with Ross, a Monmouth recruit who recorded nine goals and eight assists in 2012, Lenape again will field a host of Division I recruits poised to make runs at the team's seventh consecutive Coaches Tournament title and sixth state Group 4 title in seven years. A 2-1 loss to Montgomery in last year's state final broke Lenape's string of consecutive state crowns.

Despite a 20-4-1 overall record and Coaches Tournament and sectional championships, the loss in the state-title game leaves a distinct feeling of unfinished business surrounding Lenape.

It's a feeling Ross is embracing.

"Our whole team is," she said. "Our slogan for this year is 'Road to Redemption.' We're trying to come back stronger than ever."

For her part, Ross already appears to have come back stronger than ever, taking yet another step in her evolution from something of a role player to one of the central pieces to the Indians' success.

She's team captain, a vocal leader, and, yes, still one of the best finishers in South Jersey.

"I like getting those opportunities, those chances to get the ball and just to bury it away," Ross said. "I just enjoy playing in big games, and hopefully we'll be playing in a lot of them this year."

Contact Chris Melchiorre at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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