Youthful Hillmen not making any excuses
Last season, the Placer High girls soccer team used a delicate balance of experience and youth to a third-place finish in the Pioneer Valley League and a playoff berth. It looks like the Hillmen will have at least one of those elements back this year.
Placer (4-3) has 10 girls on the varsity team that are new to soccer along with several young players in key positions and six seniors. But the continuing youth movement doesn’t give any excuses for losing, Placer coach Steve Cook said.
“If you look at our schedule we’re playing more quality teams,” he said. “We’ve just got to get ready for the PVL and that’s just going to be a barnburner because anyone in the PVL can win on any given night.”
The Hillmen started the season with four games against teams that made the playoffs last year and are 1-1 in those games so far with Forest Lake and Inderkum remaining. The tough early schedule should help narrow down the inexperience level of some players and give others some confidence in new roles.
Freshman Kyra Hostetler was set to be the starter anyway but will be forced to take on a bigger bulk of time in the net with backup keeper Jenelle Pickard, a basketball player who was playing soccer for the first time, out for six weeks with a fractured arm.
Sophomores Brittany Bartle and Macaylea Mitchell moved from midfielder last season to forward this year but have provided a steady attack when the Hillmen do get shots on goal. They had just three in a 2-0 loss to Del Oro earlier this month.
The defense has been the most consistent for Placer behind co-captain Camille Semons, Caitlin Letcher, Alex Lee and freshman Sarah Rowland.
The midfielders are Oliva Holmes, Ashley Cook, Sabrina Viscuso and Ashley Noder have provided the experience.
“Our defense is our brightest star right now,” Steve Cook said. “We’re working into the transition and getting a few shots and that’s part of development and part of practicing.
Defense will again be the key for the Golden Eagles, which fell one game short of reaching the Sac-Joaquin Division II playoffs last season. They have given up just goal through four games and only gave up seven all of the 2011 season.
One reason for Del Oro’s success has been its depth. Most players can play multiple positions and that experience helps control the tempo for the course of the game.
The Eagles (3-0-1) return their top six scorers from last year when they scored 31 goals, including Kaleigh Landberg, who had seven goals, and Lauren Gollnick, who scored five goals and had five assists.
“I think one of the things that we pride ourselves is keeping the ball on the attack,” Del Oro coach Ron Benjamin said. “We will be super organized defensively and we won’t give up many goals and we pride ourselves on the fact that we’re going to get after it and win balls, keep our defensive shape and make sure that we don’t get broken down. But I think the big key for us is going to be how fast we can play in possession. Coming into league every opponent is going to be more difficult and athletic and fast and organized so I think our speed of play is going to be one of the keys for us moving forward.”
The Falcons ran through the Pioneer Valley League with a 7-1-2 record last season and coach Lefty Wilks welcomes back the bulk of her roster this spring.
Senior standout Kate Bianchi anchors Colfax’s outstanding defense, which has given up just two goals in nine games so far this season.
In the midfield, seniors Amy Blackburn and Iona Lofrano are playmakers. Senior Celeena Wall is a crafty scorer, with nine goals already this year.
Juniors Katy Thomas and Kelly Harris add offensive punch for Colfax, which will face Foothill on Thursday to open PVL play.
The Bruins surprised many in the PVL last season, finishing in second place with a 6-2-2 record. They return plenty of talent this season, including senior Janelle Jensen, who scored 13 goals in 2011 and sophomore Maddi Dunn, who scored nine.
Jensen is one of just two seniors on the roster, but coach Guy Tortorici is optimistic the Bruins can contend again in the PVL. They were the only PVL team to beat Bear River last season.
The Falcons are off to their usual unimpressive start at 1-5-1, but don’t be surprised if Forest Lake is playing late into the postseason in May.
Forest Lake has taken on several Division I, II and III powers in the non-league slate to toughen up for the top teams in Division V.
The Falcons have great senior leadership with defenders Dana Ormiston and Emily English along with goalkeeper Stephanie Herron. Midfielder Lia Hagerty is a force and sophomore Aly English is a prolific scorer.
Forest Lake will face Woodland Christian to open Central Valley California League play on Tuesday.
The Wildfires have shown they can be competitive and will look to improve on last season's 3-9 mark.
Maria Triggs and Rylee Hackley are the team captains.