Seasoned soccer squad ready to take a big step up
Coaches- Steph Nelson (1st head coach), Will Bialecki (vars. ass’t., 6th).
Last season’s accomplishments- 0-12, 7th in WVC, 3-18-2 overall.
Major losses- Tracy Pophal (2x 2nd Team GNC), Kristyn Stiver;
Key returnees- srs. Ashley Millenbah (HM WVC), Madeline Klippel, Sydney Harris, Claire Peterson, Tristan Swiechowski, Amber Millenbah; jrs. Taylor LaBorde, Tori Gartmann, Mikaila Juhlke; soph. Katie Purmal.
Promising newcomers- jrs. Taylor Hudzinski, Jenna Klos; sophs. Katier Pintens, Hanna Cohrs, Anna Litschauer; frosh Cassie Plachetka.
Nelson quotable- “I expect that we’re going to win a couple more games this season. We’re looking to get away from playing such a defensive game and starting a little more offense of our own. With the number of girls we have returning, we don’t have quite as much of the first game jitters to worry about. The vast majority of the girls have gotten a lot of varsity playing time so now we’re just looking to play more of a possession game, and in turn create more opportunities.
The more I watch them, the more excited I’ve been getting. I think that while conference play is still going to be very tough, we’re going to fare a little better there purely because of who we all have and how they’re looking right now. We’ve got a lot of girls who can play in multiple positions on the field and it’s making Will and I excited because we should have a lot more offense than we’ve had in the past. It seems like some of the girls have gotten stronger shots, their touch on the ball is better, and they’re really starting to understand where they should be going or what they should be doing on and off the ball.
“My goals for the team is to beat the beatables: Mosinee, Antigo, Medford, Nekoosa; and keep it respectable with some of the more developed programs. For the teams that have been close in the past (Lakeland, West) I’d be okay with a tie, but I want them to go out there and know that it’s possible to get the W. My biggest goal for these girls is to get a conference win. Last year they were so close with West that I think that with the work that the majority of these girls put in on the off season they should be able to come out and do more damage.
“Lastly, I want the girls to close the gap in our shot difference in conference; last year they were out-shot 263 to 20 in conference. This year, I’d like to close the gap to at least 200 allowed, and 50+ for us and add in a couple conference goals. The girls didn’t score any last year.
“This conference is so strong; I have no clue who is going to win it this year because there are multiple teams who are capable of doing so. I think the top three are going to be SPASH, Marshfield and DCE, but who knows… you can’t ever count out East or Rapids, and West struggled last year, but they (like us) didn’t lose too many players, so they will be a tough match-up.
“The biggest strength is their willingness to learn and get better. Back in fall I gave the girls an off-season workout packet, and around 15 girls did the program almost to a T with also adding in some ball-handling drills to their daily workout. They have self-regulated so much of this that I know they will be improved as I have already seen an improvement in their skills since last year. Another big strength is they are sick of losing; they want to start winning and have showed nothing but hard work and determination in the first week in order to start getting some W’s.
“These girls are some of the nicest girls I know; I have a group of seniors who have been leading anyone who wants to through drills; they welcomed freshmen into their after school workouts and actually have started helping out some middle school girls. While yes, they could use a little ferocity, it is nice to know they genuinely care about the development of the program and also each other.
“Right now they look very willing to try new things. I’ve had conversations with quite a few girls about possibly changing what position they normally play because Will and I have seen some great qualities that could be utilized better in another position. So far every single one of them has been extremely positive and they almost seem excited about trying something new. They want to start getting more respect and they’re willing to put the work in and make the changes needed in order to earn it.
“We only lost two seniors from last year, so we’ll finally have a lot of experience on the field.”