Sights set on state
The Truckee High girls soccer team is determined to exceed last season’s accomplishments, which included scoring 55 goals during the season while allowing just two.
But with one of those goals leading to a 1-0 loss to rival North Tahoe and the other to a 1-0 eliminating defeat to Incline in the playoffs, the numbers are impressive only on paper ” not in the big picture.
“Our goal is to win state,” said Alex O’Neil, a center midfielder and one of three senior captains. “We’ve decided that as a team. We have to beat North Tahoe and Incline. That’s what we’re going to train for.”
Although there has been only one week of practice since cuts, the 18-member squad already is demonstrating the chemistry vital to any championship team. Senior captain Melissa Kleffman ” a midfielder and forward ” noticed as much over the weekend, when the Wolverines placed second behind South Tahoe in the 4A Galena Tournament.
“It looks like the team has been playing together a long time, even though it’s been only four practices,” Kleffman said, adding that chemistry and ball control seem to be the team’s strengths. “There’s always things to improve on, but I’m confident in all the players. I believe we have a real strong team.”
Second-year coach Amy Valdivia, who inherited the job the night before the first game last season, also holds high hopes for the team, which lost only three seniors while gaining plenty of young talent.
“This year it’s exciting being able to build from the beginning,” Valdivia said. “We lost three seniors, and they were big losses, but we have players stepping up.”
One young player who has stepped up is freshman Bernie Nelson.
“She’s physical,” Valdivia said of Nelson, a versatile player who is likely see a lot of game-time this season. “She’s very smart, she has the skills we’re looking for and she works really hard.”
Like the rest of her teammates, Nelson is confident, too ” a contagious team trait that didn’t take long to rub off on her.
When asked what the chances are of earning a shot at the 3A state championship, Nelson answered “Like, 100 percent,” after quickly correcting her initial 99 percent estimate. “I think we’ll definitely get there. We’re in good condition and our spirit is really good.”
Whitney Hardy, a center midfielder and one of the team’s three senior captains, said the small amount of player turnover from last year’s team combined with a group of skillful replacements are key to the Wolverines’ success this year.
“It’s pretty much the same team,” Hardy said, “so it’s nice going into the season knowing everyone and feeling comfortable. This year we have stronger younger girls and more depth on the bench.”
About being crowned No. 1 in the state, Hardy said “It’s definitely on everybody’s mind all the time. That’s what it’s all about, is to win state.”
Will the Wolverines accomplish their goal?
“Of course,” Hardy said.