Girls soccer teams prepare for season
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. As with every spring sports season, the unpredictable Colorado weather makes itself an unwanted player, messing with schedules and killing the chance for invaluable practice time on the pitch.Still, athletes shape up in the gym and in the hallways, doing what they can to ready for the season indoors. Area soccer squads have felt the weather pinch in a big way, leaving little time to prepare for official competition, which begins on Thursday.The following is a school-by-school look at what to expect from the 2007 soccer scene:
An injury-riddled 2006 season left Glenwood Springs feeling a little cheated. The Demons came on strong toward season’s end, but missed out on a trip to the playoffs.This year, they’ll start the season behind the eight-ball for a better reason, as they wait on five girls from the Glenwood’s Class 4A Final Four-qualifying basketball team to wrap up its season.”You want your program to get used to winning,” Demons soccer coach Linda Flohr said. “You want them to expect themselves to go on in the playoffs.”The fourth-year coach hopes the winning spirit is infectious and spreads to her Demon team. With a substantial number of experienced players returning, Flohr is optimistic.”We’ve got a lot of people coming back so we’re excited about that,” she said. “We’ve got some good young players coming up. The girls are really working hard on conditioning and touches. We’re excited to start and see what we’ve got.”Chelsea Vallario, a junior, will be Glenwood’s biggest scoring threat, while solid keepers Kelsie Hert, a junior, and senior Anna Kulwiec return for another season.Other top returning Demons include seniors Corrina Gibson, Deborah Collins and Karlie Andreas and junior Carly Stillman.Flohr just hopes to see the same squad on the field game in and game out.”We had a lot of injuries we dealt with (last year),” she said. “We had a different lineup every game. Toward the end, we really finished strong. We had a big win over Steamboat. We’re hoping to build off the strong finish.”
With a veteran-laced roster and a recent run of success as a foundation, Rifle coach Tom Taucher is optimistic about his team’s chances in 2007.”We have a pretty good group of kids who have been with us for a while,” said the veteran coach, entering his ninth year at the program’s helm.Senior goalkeeper Kadie LaRocque is the Bears’ veteran anchor and is back for a fourth year on the varsity squad. “She’s kind of our backbone,” Taucher lauded. “She’s our leader on defense.”Also returning is senior defender Shanaira Foreman, who sat out last year with a knee injury, senior midfielder Chelsey Nepp, senior Jessica Widmer, junior defender Mindy Gonzales and junior striker Chelsea Webb, last season’s leading scorer.On the heels of freshmen seasons with the varsity team are midfield/striker hybrid Marcy Kreimier and defender Danielle Sjogren.”We have a nice balance of younger players with a lot of experience and a returning core group,” Taucher said.Newcomers Rikki Sours and Tessa Strauss should also help out.Rifle finished up in third place in the Class 4A Western Slope League standings and was 8-7-1 overall, earning a playoff date with Silver Creek (Longmont). A first-round exit left a bitter taste in the Bears’ mouths, but Taucher knew squaring off with a talented Front Range team did his team little harm.”They were one of the more powerful teams we saw last year,” he said. “They made quick work of us, but it was good experience for our team to see a team of that caliber.”This year, Rifle wants to hang in the playoff dance a little longer.”Hopefully we can take the next step and win a game or two,” Taucher said. “That’s tough for all (the WSL) teams.”
Considering Taylor Wagner is Roaring Fork’s sole senior, the Ram program may have another year of growing pains to wrestle with.Numbers aren’t the team’s strong point – less than 20 girls are signed on – but talented, young players who accumulated varsity minutes en masse last season spell a bright future.”I know some schools getting 30-plus girls out,” Roaring Fork coach Brad Zeigel said. “We’re young and there’s not many of us, but that means a lot of playing time. It’s an energetic group that’s excited to get fit and ready to go.”Senior Taylor Wagner, junior Nikki Smeins and sophomore Cathy Vega will lead the Rams into the ’07 campaign, with a slew of young players expected to chip in. Among them, junior Krispin Jewkes and sophomores Becca Dolores, Shawn Clapper and Hanna Burleigh. Dolores and Clapper will anchor the defense, while Wagner and Vega will hold down the midfield. Vega may also end up playing forward, along with Burleigh and Jewkes. But, with recent inclement weather restricting field time, little is set in stone.”We’ve been doing most of (our practicing) in the hallways,” Zeigel noted. That’s a familiar storyline among spring sports teams.Zeigel and the Rams know a playoff push will not be easy in the talent-filled Class 3A Western Slope League.”It’s an aggressive schedule,” he said. “I tell the girls right when we’re able to start the season, we’re staring it in the face. With the pinch of weather, it makes the season even shorter. It’s a race. “The game has to teach them a lot. There’s not much time to coach. We encourage, tape up an ankle and send ’em out.”
When you’re limited to freshmen and sophomores, a winning inaugural season is all the more special. That’s what Coal Ridge accomplished in 2006.This year, with those sophomores aging into juniors and the frosh into sophs, why would one not consider Coal Ridge a candidate for a winning campaign?Brian Blair, who took over both the boys and girls soccer program at Coal Ridge after the abrupt departure of Shawn McElroy in the fall, is ready to direct the Titans to new heights. “I have high hopes for the season,” said Blair, who played four years of soccer in high school at Aurora Central. “It’s a new system, so there’s some adjustment there, but we have a lot of talent.”Playing a light varsity schedule – with junior varsity opponents here and there – Coal Ridge wasn’t eligible for the playoffs last year. This time around, a full Class 3A Western Slope League slate awaits … and so does playoff eligibility.Top Titan returners include sophomore midfielders Erica Ruiz and Kelly Ramero, junior all-league goalkeeper Vanessa Hinojos and junior Alyssa Little.Blair expects several freshmen to make varsity, including forward Chelsie Ryan and midfielder Audrey Asplund. Drew Simonson, Emily Johnson, Sam Wilson and Kourtney Mitchell may also see significant varsity time.The defense is anchored by sophomores and juniors, including the likes of Nalini Blanco, Teneisha Hampton, Courtney Hutton and Staci Baker.Up front, the only returning sophomore is Patricia Jewkes, with Asplund and Ryan joining her.”I think that last year, they even surprised each other with how much success they had,” Blair said. “I feel a lot is attainable.”
Colorado Rocky Mountain School will start its season a few weeks after its fellow Western Slopers, getting things under way with an April 3 meeting at Aspen. The Pearls follow with an April 10 road game against crosstown rival Roaring Fork.CRMS finished up last season in the middle of the Class 3A WSL pack and return a group of talented players, including seniors Claire Noone, Monica Schaller, Tess Freeman, Michelle Weitzenkorn and Katie Walker. Noone, says coach Amanda Leahy, is a model player.”Claire has just done everything for us,” she said. Fresh faces to the team this year will include Sandra Oken, a new student from Germany, and freshman Aisha Weinhold. Though Leahy hasn’t seen either girl on the field – because of the weather – both have shown promise during indoor practice. Also new to the team is All-American swimmer Emily McDonald, who competes in the pool with Glenwood Springs High and is headed to Middlebury College in Vermont next school year. “She’s never played soccer, but she’s an athlete and knows what it entails,” Leahy said.Truthfully, Leahy isn’t quite sure what to expect from the Pearls in 2007, but with a solid returning group and a lot of potential among the newcomers, she’s optimistic.”I think we’re going to have some nice, physical surprises,” she said. “We always have a good core.”
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