North Tahoe girls soccer | Lakers look to pay back league foes in 2010 |

North Tahoe girls soccer | Lakers look to pay back league foes in 2010

Keith Sheffield/Sun File PhotoNorth Tahoe senior Nicole Younger battles with Incline's Tori O'Connor as teammate Kelley Holman looks on during a Northern 3A Sierra League game last season. The five-time state champion Lakers look to get past league foes Incline and Truckee, as well as first-year 3A member South Tahoe, in 2010.

The Northern 3A Sierra League, already competitive year in and year out, is even more potent in 2010 thanks to the addition of longtime 4A power South Tahoe.

That’s just fine by second-year coach Jon Rockwood and his North Tahoe girls soccer team.

and#8220;We are focusing on South Tahoe, Truckee and Incline and#8212; pretty classic matchups. Those are typically the more competitive schools, and we hope to increase our intensity from last year and hopefully come out ahead,and#8221; Rockwood said. and#8220;The girls know that they’re in for a bigger challenge this year, and they’ve been working hard.and#8221;

Considering the standard of excellence established years ago by the five-time state champion Lakers and#8212; and maintained through the decades and#8212; the last couple of seasons have ended in disappointment. The Lakers’ last state championship appearance was 2007, while the team lost in the first round of the postseason last year. Truckee defeated Incline in the state semifinal a year ago before going on to win a third straight title.

Before thinking about a return to prominence, however, Rockwood said his players are focusing on taking care of business during the regular season, particularly against their competitive rivals who have had their number in recent years.

and#8220;I think their concerns are much more immediate (than winning state). They want to beat Incline, they want to beat Truckee and they want to beat South Tahoe,and#8221; said Rockwood, whose Lakers went 0-5 against those schools in 2009. and#8220;It’s sort of a more personal season in that sense than taking it out of the (Tahoe) Basin.and#8221;

North Tahoe will tackle the challenging league schedule with a talented roster 18 players deep. And while they lost six seniors from last year, including standout goalkeeper Kea Jolicoeur and Dani Pranin, the Lakers return six seniors and three juniors from that squad. The roster includes eight juniors total, two sophomores and two freshman.

and#8220;We are looking good,and#8221; said Rockwood, who’s looking at junior Tannyr Pasvantis and freshman Angela Wood to replace Jolicoeur in the goal. and#8220;We lost a couple of stronger players, but all of the players that are on the team have improved over the summer. Combine that with a really strong couple of freshmen that came in, and I think we’re a better team despite having lost two very solid players.and#8221;

The coach said he’s looking forward to seeing senior sweeper Kelsey Wittels in action this season, as well as senior midfielders Nicole Younger and Kelley Holman, who he said is always working hard and having a good time, and aggressive junior striker Mago Oliveras. Wittels and Holman were voted team captains along with junior striker Sammi Schulte.

A year after struggling to put points on the board, Rockwood said the Lakers have focused on improving their offensive attack this preseason, while the team’s defense remains solid.

and#8220;I’m very confident in our defense this year. I think they are playing very well and working up to the midfield very well. But I also look to really build our offensive attack. We’re focusing a lot on our offense and finishing,and#8221; he said.

The Lakers begin their Northern 3A Sierra League season at Sparks on Sept. 9.

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