|Volume 107, Issue 7||Sports|
Soccer squad sets sights high as season ignites
By Kelsey Gelhar
posted April 18, 2011
Banners proclaiming the years that each sports team claimed conference titles for West line the wall of the main gym. While some of these banners have multiple dates, including consecutive years, positioned underneath the team�s name, others hold relatively few. One banner remains completely empty. It belongs to the varsity girls soccer team, and the squad hopes to change that with a new approach to this season.
�If we focus too much on [winning conference], or obsess about it, it dominates everything we do,� said Head Coach Mike Allen. �I think we focused on it last year, and that we were maybe too focused on it. If we lost a game, we lost a bit of our momentum.�
The team had its first conference match up in Fond du Lac on Tuesday, April 12, and came out victorious, starting their FVA record 1-0 (3-1-1 overall).
�It�s a good start, and it�s a builder. The nice thing is that we won, but we didn�t play our best soccer, which means that we haven�t peaked yet,� said Allen. �There are still things that we can work on. We probably had 13 shots and about half were on target. Being able to produce quality scoring opportunities and being able to understand our offensive structure will help us to produce goals. Winning conference games against quality opponents, like Fond du Lac, is a good sign.�
Although this was the Wildcats� first conference battle, they had already played two games to prepare them for the Cardinals. With these contests, Allen has seen the girls improve and make the necessary adjustments to continue with their success throughout the season.
�I think that, not only are we doing well so far, but we�ve also grown. That�s the encouraging thing, because we�re going to have to grow if we are going to win games,� he said. �We definitely don�t want to peak too early, and we�re building up to playing with Neenah at the end of the year. I think by that point, we�ll be a gelled unit and we�ll fully understand what we�ll be doing and how we�ll be attacking.�
Allen believes that working as a unit is something that has, and will, help the team as it competes this spring.
�The chemistry was very good to begin with, even at the first practice. It�s nice, as a coach, when the team is cohesive,� he said. �The strides I�ve seen aren�t necessarily in that capacity because that�s already there. When you don�t have that chemistry, it�s very tough to grow, but what we have gives us a solid foundation to grow off of.�
This camaraderie relates to the accomplishments of the team thus far.
�If you�re not going to pass to somebody because you don�t like them, that has a lot to do with it. I think that has a lot to do with the level of success that we�ve had in the past, and the level of effort that we put forth in practices,� said Allen. �I can only do so much, but when everyone is on the same page, there�s a sense of responsibility that you feel towards your teammates, and then you follow through with effort.�
The members of the team share a similar frame of mind.
�I think everybody brings a special feature to the team and that we all work well together,� said sophomore Megan Paulick. �We�re not cliquey. Everyone is together and everyone talks.�
Senior Nicole Palmquist agreed.
�There�s not very much drama. There aren�t certain groups,� she said. �I think we all work hard and have a mindset of working hard and wanting to win.�
This cohesion allows the players to look to their teammates for support and motivation, the latter of which is high after losing key players from last spring�s squad.
�Not having those few players to count on makes everyone else work harder,� said Paulick.
Palmquist also notices this trait among her teammates.
�I feel like everyone doubts us because we don�t have those main go-to players,� she said. �It makes us work harder.�
The effort that each individual player puts forth contributes to the level that they are able to compete at this season. The style of their play has also been affected.
�We�re not dependent on those people,� said senior Megan Quandt. �We all play to our abilities and pass more.�
Palmquist has recognized this change as well.
�We possess it and pass it more,� she said. �We take our time and we aren�t as flustered.�
Allen believes that this composure can be attributed to the focus of the team over the start of its time together and he plans to carry out this approach until the conclusion of the season.
�By creating an environment that is fun and where working hard is the focus versus the outcome, and where you put the emphasis on the process more than the outcome, we�ll yield a better result on the field and it will give us the best chance in conference,� he said.
Although the image of the empty banner hovers in the back of their minds and the doubts of conference rivals echo through their ears, the girls refuse to get too far ahead of themselves. Junior Aubrey Stenson states her outlook on handling the remainder of the season.
�We have to take it one game at a time and we�ll be fine,� she said.
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