North Tahoe girls’ soccer preview | Balanced Lakers excited about team |

North Tahoe girls’ soccer preview | Balanced Lakers excited about team

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Sylas Wright / Sun file photoSenior striker Sammi Schulte returns as one of the Lakers' top players.

The consensus among Northern 3A soccer coaches and#8212; North Tahoe coach Jon Rockwood included and#8212; is that they’ll feel more comfortable assessing their own teams after seeing their competition in action.

Luckily for them, they get that chance right off the bat, as Fallon hosts a crossover tournament Friday and Saturday with every Northern 3A team, from the Lakers’ Sierra League to their distant rivals in the Humboldt League.

and#8220;We’re looking forward to the crossover tournament because every team we’re going to play is going to be there. It’s the ultimate preview,and#8221; said Rockwood, who enters his third season as the Lakers’ head coach.

Based on what the coach has seen of his team so far in the opening weeks, he feels pretty good about its chance to contend.

and#8220;We’ve only played one scrimmage (against Wooster), but during that scrimmage we looked good,and#8221; he said. and#8220;I think we look as good or better than our team last year. We’re looking strong, but I am well aware of some challenging games ahead of us.and#8221;

Last year the Lakers entered the Northern 3A Regional Tournament as the Sierra League’s No. 4 seed. That earned them a date with top-seeded Fallon of the Humboldt League in the first round, which resulted in a 1-0 loss to end their season.

While North Tahoe lost six seniors from that team, including All-Sierra League Defensive Player of the Year Kelsey Wittels and three other All-League performers, the Lakers return a skilled and balanced roster made up of five seniors, five juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen.

and#8220;We have quite a bit of youth, but the youth that is playing has committed a lot of their lives to soccer, whether in club soccer or whatever, and that experience really shows,and#8221; said Rockwood, adding that the Lakers will benefit from having a deep bench.

Among the top returners, seniors Mago Olivares and Alicia Pieper are back after earning second team All-League status in 2010, as is junior Liz Buhler, who received honorable mention recognition last year. Olivares and Buhler, both with excellent distribution skills and vision, Rockwood said, are center mids and Pieper is the Lakers’ sweeper.

Rockwood also expects senior striker Sammi Schulte to make an impact up front with her speed and ability to score. She’ll be joined at the forward position by sophomore Emily Pieper, whom Rockwood is moving up from the midfield in an effort to generate more scoring opportunities.

and#8220;She’s quick and she’s smart with the ball,and#8221; he said of the younger Pieper sister. and#8220;She has a really good eye for the game and can pick up on mistakes by the other team.and#8221;

Senior defender Tenaya Driller, a senior and third-year varsity player, will serve as team captain along with Schulte and Olivares. Driller be joined in the backfield by senior stopper Shelby Foster, while first-year varsity player Emily Nall, a speedy junior, will play midfield, Rockwood said.

The coach is perhaps most excited about the goalie position, however, which will be split between sophomores Kami Abi-Nader and Angela Wood.

and#8220;We have two excellent goalkeepers this year who are going to be sharing time. I’m excited and the team is excited to have that anchor,and#8221; he said, adding that Wood, who has great foot speed, can move up to the midfield when not in the goal.

Combine the solid goalkeeping with an improved offensive game, and Rockwood hopes North Tahoe can find the back of the net more often than the 2010 team, which often struggled to score.

and#8220;I think our offense is looking a lot stronger, from what I’ve seen,and#8221; the coach said. and#8220;Our shots are better, and our offensive vision has been improved from one year to the next.

and#8220;I know the girls are excited for the season. They did a lot of preseason running, so their fitness is pretty good. Now the next step is just to play the first game.and#8221;

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