A buzz surrounded the girls soccer squad when they became the first to take the field at the new Carter Street ballfields.
It seemed like nobody knew the team had lost seven seniors, four first-team all-leaguers, to boot. It’s an excited group of 26 girls seeking to build on a 2013 season that saw them win the Northwest League with a perfect 8-0 record, only to be ousted handily in post-season play, in a 7-1 loss to King’s High School, which ended the season second in the state.
Like the rest of Friday Harbor High School’s athletic teams, the girls soccer squad drops to the 2B classification. For coach Paul Hopkins and crew, the switch doesn’t mean a huge change in opponents, as 7-of-8 teams the Wolverines will face are squads they took on last fall.
But it does change the mentality about where the Wolverines want to be come playoff time.
“Our goals are to win the league, like we did last year and see what we can do in the playoffs,” Hopkins said.
The Wolverines will be tested early, with four games on the road to start the season, the last three in a four-day span, a league match-up with 2B league runner-up La Conner before back-to-back non-league games against Division 2A Lynden and Sedro-Woolley.
The Wolverines this year face all four Northwest 2B League opponents three times each, in the past they’ve played each other twice.
“It’ll be fun, especially with La Conner and Mount Vernon Christian,” said Hopkins, now in his third year at the helm of the girls soccer program. “It gives a little buffer, but you wanna’ win all three.”
Another challenge Hopkins and JV coach Emily Carrington face is a drop in player turnout. There will be 13 players on each squad, but there will be flexibility between the two squads, with swing players switching around during and between games, and whenever the Wolverines play smaller schools with no JV squads, like Orcas and Concrete.
Hopkins also wants to establish a new style of play, with a change in formation, switching from a “burn the other team with speed” type offense to a possession in the midfield-oriented game.
Hopkins said that although he has seven seniors and only two freshman, every girl must play like they’ve been on the team for years.
Team captain Kaitlyn Domenech, a senior, agrees. “We’re learning how to mesh well together and in time I have confidence that we will be a very close team,” she said.
Without a true “star” to carry the squad, Hopkins said success will depend on how well the players play together as a team.
“We want to play well into November, only two months of the season is too short,” he said.
— Sam Paul-Barrette