by Roger Wistar
Added depth at every level has coaches and captains excited about this year's prospects for the girls varsity soccer team.
"This year, more than ever, we have a lot of people who can play in many different positions," said head coach Christy Cooper. "It's kind of fun. It's exciting."
The team returns more than two-thirds (16 of 22 girls) of last year's squad, and roughly the same number are upper mids or seniors, which Cooper added would make the team even more invested in its success.
"It's going to be a real positive," she said. "Those kids are really devoted to the team, and are very happy to be back together on [Hoyt Field]."
Co-captain Claire Jennings '18, one of eight backs on the roster, was quick to point out that a new year means a new team. "Although our team has many returners, the group this year is completely different from previous years," she said.
Both Jennings and Cooper said they were most excited about the potential for depth to give the team more interchangeable parts. New players can be substituted onto the field, and players can exchange positions, without having the team suffer a drop in overall effectiveness.
As an added bonus, Cooper said she hoped that being able to spread around minutes more liberally could help the team avoid the injury bug that has seemed to bite it towards the back end of the past few seasons.
But Jennings noted that with more substitutions comes a need for the team to be able to adjust fluidly to many different lineup combinations, particularly in the back. "The defensive line is going to need to be very flexible and quick to adjust to a different girl moving onto the field," she said.
Speed will be the watchword for the team not just in handling lineup changes but also in dictating the pace of play on the field. Cooper said that she hoped the team would move the ball quickly on both offense and defense, and Jennings added that the girls will need to look to switch the field to create opportunities.
Although several of the faces on the field are new, the team returns coaches Cooper, Molly Nickerson, and Diego Ardura. Having both assistants back for their second year has greatly benefitted the cohesion of the coaching staff, said Cooper.
To bring the team together, Jennings said that she and fellow captain Frances Astorian '18 will need to work hard to reach each player. "We are the ones who make sure that everyone feels comfortable, has fun, and regains focus when needed," she said.