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Freshmen giving Placer varsity soccer team a spark

Lady Hillmen host Colfax Thursday night
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Some were skeptical when Steve Cook made the decision to place numerous freshmen on his Placer varsity soccer roster this season.

After 17 games, it seems like the coach’s choice is already paying dividends.

Ninth-grader Samantha Slade has scored 10 goals and added five assists.

“I feel very vicious down there (in the goal box),” said Slade, who led the squad in goals until senior Sabrina Viscuso had a four-goal game Monday to improve her season total to 13. “I really want to score. I do anything it takes to score.”

And if the Lady Hillmen can defend their home field Thursday against Colfax, they’ll find themselves at the top of the Pioneer Valley League standings by night’s end.  

“It’s going to be huge,” Morgan Cutter said of the game against the Lady Falcons, who Placer beat 3-2 on April 8 in Colfax. “We’re all very motivated and we want to take PVL this year.”

Placer (8-9, 5-2), which hosts Colfax (9-4-4, 5-1-1) at 7:15 p.m. at LeFebvre Stadium under the lights, is currently playing with eight freshmen on its 19-girl roster. Nonetheless, the Lady Hillmen are 7-3 in their last 10 outings on the pitch.

One reason for Placer’s recent success, the girls say, is that they play with a lot of heart.

“It’s about how skilled you are and how much you love the game, not your age,” said Mikayla Lopez, with seven of her freshmen teammates all agreeing in unison.

Another tidbit the girls concur with: They’re enjoying proving the naysayers wrong, the ones who thought there shouldn’t be so many freshmen on a varsity team.

“People started to accept it after we started winning,” said Cassidy Noder.

Added Claire Brown: “We came out and tried really hard. We have a good group of freshmen. Coach got a lot of rap for it. People said we weren’t going to be good because we were not experienced enough. We’re showing them.”

In the beginning of the season, some of the upperclassmen weren’t sure if the younger players could hang at the varsity level, said Lara Macon.
“At first there was a little bit of a difference between the freshmen, juniors and seniors,” she said. “Now it’s just a team. Now we all get together really well. At first they weren’t sure if we could handle this, and I think we proved that we could.”

Said Natalie Rowland: “Our team has great chemistry. At the beginning of the year there was a little bit of friction. But now we’ve been playing together, we’re all friends and we’ve got each others’ backs.”

After Tuesday’s practice the whole team went out for ice cream for the first time.
“I think it’s great that we’re starting to do stuff outside of soccer,” Rowland said. “It’s great for team unity.”

Some members of this team could be united for a long time.

“Considering we’re all freshmen, we’re going to have an amazing team as juniors and seniors,” said Tiffany Harben, who along with Slade and Viscuso has a team-high five assists. “We’ll know how we play and pretty much try to be unstoppable. Most of us have been working together in clubs as well. It’s an exciting experience.”

Reach Matthew Kimel at matthewk@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@matthewkimel