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Girls soccer notes: Andover’s Anna Dilkes adjusts approach

Published May 7 at 7:54 p.m. | Last updated May 7 at 7:55 p.m.

It is not uncommon for soccer players to struggle while adjusting to their capabilities after suffering an injury.

And considering the quality of player Ana Dilkes is in the midfield for Andover, she was in store for a steep learning curve after a quadriceps injury in the second game would limit her for the rest of her senior season.

But Dilkes is a two-time All-Metro selection for a reason, and she has morphed into a deadly facilitator for the Trojans from her spot in the midfield.

“I’ve seen players come and go, time and time again, that are the same type of player, but when they get injured they continue to try to force what they can’t do,” Andover coach Chris Lemons said. “They can’t really evolve to what is best for the team. Ana has definitely done that for us this year.”

Injuries have ravaged Andover’s starting lineup, affecting six starters, which has made for an up-and-down season — Andover is 8-5-1.

Dilkes still commands respect from defenses, drawing at least a second defender every time she touches the ball. Instead of pursuing another outstanding goal-scoring season — she netted 17 as a junior and 26 as a sophomore — Dilkes already has the most assists (six) in a season of her career.

“She hasn’t had that step where she can get by defenders,” Lemons said. “So she’s evolved into playing through balls and attracting multiple defenders and putting somebody else in. That’s been huge for us.”

Andover, which plays Goddard at home Thursday, has hopes of fielding a fully-healthy lineup for regionals in two weeks. It may not be the team Lemons envisioned, but it has become a team he believes is a threat.

And there is no one that shapes the outlook more than Dilkes, even when she’s not 100 percent.

“She’s such a competitor,” Lemons said. “There are games where she’ll come up to me and say, ‘I know I’m not healthy, but I want to play.’ And I’ll let her do that. We’re a different team without her, for sure. She makes a huge impact.”

Make your run — Senior Dalia Fernandez is second on North in scoring with 12 goals and four assists. It is particularly impressive since Fernandez has been playing sweeper this season.

“I’ve given her artistic license to pick her spots and make her runs,” North coach Curt Wullschlegler said of Fernandez, who will play at Butler next season. “It just depends on the game how much we let her loose. But the great thing is her teammates recognize when she does and reward her with the ball and then they do a great job communicating and covering for her in the back.”

Even with Fernandez coming out of the back several times a game — only three of her goals have come from set pieces — Wullschlegler said North has not allowed a goal off a counter-attack.

Sophomore Dora Gallo is the leading scorer with 15 goals and seven assists for North (5-7), which plays Heights in the North Cup semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

“The girls have been working so hard and we’ve gotten better with every game,” said Wullschlegler, who is in his first season. “Whether it be a technical aspect or a tactical understanding of the game, they’ve improved every time out and that’s made this season very rewarding. They’re just really good kids.”