The Packer girls' soccer team is hoping last season's growing pains will result in more wins than last year and a trip to the state tournament.
Fielding a rookie freshmen-dominated roster, last year's inexperienced team lost eight of its last nine games and struggled to a 3-10-3 overall mark. The Packers struggled after losing 12 seniors to graduation the prior season that led the Packers to an all-time best 12-8-1.
Players and coaches are planning on fielding a team that looks more like the Packers of 2006 than the team of 2007.
"We have that big sophomore class now that is looking excellent in practice. They're going to be our base for the next few years," said Jon Melendez, who will share head coaching duties with Laura Bartsch for the second straight year.
One of those sophomores is Tia Lopez, who led the Packers with 11 goals last season and was the only freshman named all-conference. She returns along with senior Cassie Beckerleg who was second on the team with five goals and three assists.
"We're hoping to win a lot more games than last year and hopefully beat South and North a couple times to get to state, since we didn't go last year," said Beckerleg, one of many players out for girls' soccer this season who helped lead the girls' hockey team to the state title game this winter.
Melendez mentioned a handful of players that looked good at last week's tryouts and will likely see extensive varsity action, including: seniors Gina Doll (1 goal, 1 assist last year) and Emily Hartley, and sophomore Courtney Voeller on defense, along with sophomore Kelsey Kloos (2 goals, 1 assist ) and Beckerleg at midfield and forwards Lopez and freshman Andrea Muller.
Andrea Muller - not be confused with senior midfielder Allison Muller - was part of the state champion, school recordsetting 4x200 relay team in girls' track last year. She also finished seventh in the 100 at the state meet. Andrea decided to switch sports this season despite last year's success on the track team.
"She looks very good," said Beckerleg, a team tri-captain. "Obviously she's really fast and knows how to control the ball and shoot and everything. She's played soccer for a long time."
Andrea's speed, along with the quickness of Beckerleg and Lopez, should breathe life into a Packer offense that scored only 20 goals last season to its opponents' 44.
"We're still making decisions on who will play where, because everyone is playing so well," said Melendez, who praised the large sophomore class. "They keep improving and hopefully by their senior year they'll accomplish what they want to accomplish. Everybody knows each other, and they've been playing together. I like that they want to win. They want to be the first ones to say, 'Hey, we want to win. We want to win state.' For being sophomores, that's a big goal for the team."
Beckerleg, Hartley and Kloos were named team captains. Senior Nicole Brokmeier will be the varsity goalkeeper. Brokmeier honed her game in the off-season in a local recreation league.
"She's shown potential way beyond her years. She was good last year and has shown big improvement this year. I'm really happy with her back in the net," said Melendez.
"We're really a defensive-minded team," said Hartley. "We're trying to improve our offense more this year and work on shooting, because if you can't score, you can't win."