CROWN POINT | Jenna Arnold is in a unique position with the Crown Point soccer team this season.
Having started since her freshman year, the junior will have the most experience in a defense that includes two seniors and will be asked to lead. Even the goalie, sophomore Meghan Morasan, is new.
"She has to be the leader in the back. She's going to have to step up and pull that group together," coach Chris Mikrut said. "She's a junior but she'll have to find a way to get those seniors to fall in order."
"She's our quarterback out there."
Arnold doesn't seem to have a problem with those responsibilities.
"I'm kind of a leader. I take charge," she said. "We have some good players, but I make sure everyone is doing their job."
There doesn't seem to be a question that Arnold does her job both on and off the soccer pitch. She is a part of the school's distinguished honor roll, with a 4-plus grade-point average.
"It's a lot of hard work balancing everything," she said, "but you just have to make that everything is done."
After stifling region forwards for two years, opposing coaches are all aware of the 5 foot, 2-inch Arnold. The word most often associated with the diminutive defender is "aggressive."
"Our defense is not the biggest or the tallest, so we have to be more aggressive. That's kind of the way I play," Arnold said. "I've made a name for myself a little bit and now I can't slack off."
Last season's Times player of the year Sarah Rivich, now a senior midfielder for the Bulldogs, was a sweeper before Arnold came along. But Rivich was able to move to her more natural spot in the middle and take better advantage of her abilities because Arnold shores up the back end.
"(Arnold's) just got that mentality for winning the ball," Mikrut said. "Her ability to bring the ball out of the back and take it 80 yards changes the game."
If there's a flaw in Arnold's game, Mikrut says, it's that she can be too hard on herself, dwelling on small mistakes.
"She goes 100 percent, 100 percent of the time and sometimes that hurts her," he said. "When she's struggling, she can have a hard time letting go."
C.P. lost nine seniors from a team that qualified for semistate last season. But between Arnold, Rivich and a good crop of underclassmen, the Bulldogs are ready to make another run.
"We still need to kind of get in the flow of things, but we became really close last year," Arnold said. "I think we can be as good as last year."