Infusion of youth has Woodridge girls soccer program on track
PENINSULA — Woodridge High School girls soccer head coach Jason Allenspach said the strength of this year’s team is the players’ “desire to continue to work and get better.”
“Sometimes, when a team is struggling, they have a tendency to give up,” he said. “But there has been improvement throughout the season. I told the girls at the beginning of the season that they will have their ups and downs. There will be failures and successes. It’s all a matter of how they deal with those things.”
As of Oct. 1, the team is 6-6-1 overall and 3-3-1 in Portage Trail Conference (PTC) County Division play. In 2011, Woodridge finished the season with a 2-8-4 mark.
“The team’s overall goals this season are to improve as a team, stay committed to each other and play 80 minutes of soccer each and every game,” the coach said. “The girls set the goal of winning the PTC title, and there is a chance that it can still happen.”
According to Allenspach, the key to the squad’s success this year has been “playing as a whole team.” However, he noted, even with the improvement made this year, there have been some growing pains.
“We are pretty young by grade and experience. I have 26 girls on the team: 11 freshmen, six sophomores, two juniors and seven seniors. Of the 26 girls on the roster, I have about 10 girls that are new to the sport or haven’t played since they were in fifth grade or younger,” he said. “For many of the girls on the team, they are just learning the basics of the game, so getting the team to the higher level of play has been a work in progress. Overall, as a team, we need to work on communication as a whole team, speed of transition from one end to another and playing with some consistency. We will go out and play a great game, but we have a difficult time taking that momentum into the next game.”
The seniors on this year’s squad are Amy Kozma, Molly Hauenstein, Paige Graham, Lauren Brady, Kara Kelleher, Abbey Lavely and Tiffany Gainer.
“I have had the pleasure of knowing these ladies and coaching them since they were in sixth grade,” Allenspach said. “They are a great group of young ladies that care about each other and their teammates. I think that they have done an incredible job working with the younger players, leading by example on the field during practices and games.”
One of the team’s standout underclassmen this year, the coach said, has been Alexys Rahim.
“She is a young lady who truly understands the game and how it should be played,” he stated. “During the offseason, she is training and playing with the Internationals, so her playing and training are at a very high level. You can see that in her game during the high school season.”
Allenspach said the team’s freshman class is comprised of “extremely hard workers.”
“They are still developing their skills and knowledge about the game, but they work extremely hard,” he said. “Their will to win, and to keep their opponents from scoring, has proven to help in games when they have been up against a team or individual opponent that may be better skilled.”
This is Allenspach’s 11th season at Woodridge.
“My assistant coach is Karlie Hepburn. This is her first season, and she has done a tremendous job,” he said. “She is a former student and player of Woodridge High School. She assists me with the varsity team; she is managing the [junior varsity] team; and she assists me with the seventh- and eighth-grade teams.”
Allenspach said the future looks bright for the Woodridge girls soccer program.
“Next season, I have the possibility of having 14 freshmen joining the squad,” he stated. “Many of these girls have been playing together and playing soccer since they were young. We will still be young, but we will surprise a lot of teams next year, like we have done this year.”
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