Plateau soccer teams looking to win with talent, depth
September 4, 2013
By Neil Pierson
If opponents are hoping to dethrone the Skyline Spartans this fall in the chase for a Class 4A girls soccer title, they’re probably not going to catch many breaks.
The Spartans are loaded with experience: Thirteen of the 19 players starting the season on varsity are seniors. Many of them have already won titles in 2011 and 2012, so the chances of being fazed in a pressure situation are slim to none.
However, head coach Don Braman isn’t about hand the 2013 Spartans anything.
“We’re at a place where we need to recreate our identity,” Braman said. “Each year is a new team and a new set of challenges, so we look at it like starting again.”
Perhaps the scariest thing about this year’s Skyline squad is there’s very little star power. Leading scorer Rachel Shim has graduated, and the Spartans expect every player on the roster to contribute goals, assists, tackles and blocked shots.
“If we need something to happen, then we’ll look to the whole team to work together and step it up,” said Brooke Holland, a senior outside defender.
There are some proven goal-scorers at the forward position, including seniors Jordan Branch and Bianca Saint, and junior Izzy Marshall, who notched the winner in last November’s state-title contest against Issaquah.
Defensively, the Spartans will rely on Holland, Abbie Litka, Abbey Porter and Erin Schlosser. Three goalkeepers – Emily Baril, Jaeden Chew and Sydney Martinez – will battle for time to start the year.
“It’ll be interesting to see how that position pans out, because we’ve got three capable players and they’ve all had a really competitive preseason,” Braman said.
The players are trying to keep emotions in check as they strive for the program’s fifth title in six seasons.
“We’re just going to try to do our best and not have that in our mind about the three-peat,” senior midfielder Brooke Bofto said. “But we’re excited for this year, and we expect big things.”
Eastlake looks to return to postseason
In Chuck Krieble’s first eight seasons as Eastlake’s girls soccer coach, his Wolves have made the playoffs seven times.
Not a bad record. It just so happens 2012 was the year Eastlake fell short of the postseason, so there’s a bitter taste left in the mouths of Krieble and the returning players.
In the coach’s mind, there’s one major reason why the Wolves didn’t advance.
“We had a good, strong defense, but we didn’t produce enough goals,” Krieble said.
Eastlake can no longer rely on Rebecca Priestley, a two-time all-KingCo Conference player. She graduated, leaving a big hole in central defense.
Krieble is looking to experienced players like Claire Suter and Grace Glover to shore up the back line, but he also selected this year’s varsity roster with offense and long-term development in mind.
For the first time in the coach’s tenure, Eastlake has two freshmen – Elise Barlow and Hannah Kleppe – starting the season on varsity. They’ll also have a junior captain for the first time, as Jodi Ulkekul got the nod alongside fellow midfielder Allie Garrett, a senior.
“It’s a huge honor; I was really surprised at first,” Ulkekul said. “I’ve had such a fun time already and the season hasn’t even started.”
Eastlake will be looking to create more offense and avoid the numerous one-goal losses they had in 2012, but the Wolves will have to do it with younger players. They have seven sophomores and only five seniors.
Garrett, a speedy winger, isn’t worried.
“We have a younger team, so I think that might surprise people, because we’ll be quick on the ball,” she said. “Last year, I know that we had the right people, but we just couldn’t finish. This year, we have stronger forwards that are just willing to go in and crash the goal.”
It isn’t all about offense, though. Ulkekul said the team has had to grow hungrier in all facets of the game, something they’ve done over the summer with their respective select teams.
“Chuck is being really great and changing a lot of things,” she said, “and just being really open to any opportunity to make things better this year.”