They lost their top scorer from the past two seasons, but Wood River High School girls’ varsity soccer players are forging ahead with a strong junior and sophomore class as they begin their 2013 campaign.
Fifth-year coach Jenni Conrad has welcomed a young varsity group that has only two seniors. Yet the 4A Wolverines have a long soccer tradition to maintain and are determined to build upon it. It includes 18 consecutive trips to state soccer and 18 straight years with 10 or more wins.
Wood River (12-8-0 last fall) debuted its season Monday with a 5-2 home loss to a 5A Highland Rams squad from Pocatello that has 12 seniors.
Conrad was pleased that her squad, playing with only three substitutes for a variety of reasons, competed with heart and 100% effort after falling behind 5-0 after 44 minutes.
The Wolverines will need that effort as the younger girls get up to speed.
The only freshman on the team, Jesse Cole, was certainly up to speed Monday. She gave the Hailey attack the kind of speed up front that Haley Montgomery (31 goals as a sophomore and junior) took with her when she decided to run cross country as a senior.
Senior goalkeeper Laurel Gaeddert in her first start played aggressively and made 11 saves, several of them spectacular against the high-powered Highland offense that out-shot Hailey 20-13. Gaeddert spent her junior year abroad in France and didn’t play soccer.
Cole scored Wood River’s first goal on a second-half penalty kick and junior Brigette Thomas buried a shot on a nice pass from junior Claire Sauerbrey to account for the goals.
Conrad said, “After we got down 5-0 the girls played a lot faster with their 1-2 touches and found the target up front better. We pushed Jesse up front to help make it happen.”
Jesse’s older sister, junior co-captain Rory Cole, is expected back from an injured knee in mid-September.
Meanwhile, junior Samantha Sutton will lead the midfield crew. The strong defense features juniors Timber Kelly, Olivia Thornton, Kenya Schott and a hard-running sophomore, Julisa Vega.
Strikers include juniors Lucy Brannon (8 goals) and Tatum Morell. Sophomore sisters Caitlyn Sfingi and Megan Sfingi will bring game.
In its Great Basin Conference league, Wood River will have to deal with a Twin Falls program that has blanked the Wolverines four straight times since 2011. Twin Falls (18-3-0, 86-11 goals-against) earned the State 4A third-place trophy after winning the GBC title for a second straight year.
An improving Jerome Tigers team (9-11-1) might be Wood River’s main obstacle to gaining the second state berth from the GBC, if the Wolverines can’t solve Twin Falls.
They’ll know better soon. Wood River hosts Twin Falls Wednesday, Sept. 4 and then goes to Twin Falls Sept. 23.
The class of 4A is Bishop Kelly of Boise (22-0-0), which won its third straight state title and fifth in six years last October. Bishop Kelly boasts 68 straight wins and beat Century of Pocatello 2-0 for last year’s title. That’s the same score Century used to beat Wood River in the 2012 state opener.
Head coach—Jenni Conrad (5th year, 55-21-4).
Assistant coach—Kelley Sinnott.
Seniors (2)—Emilia Bingham (D) and Laurel Gaeddert (GK).
Juniors (11)—Lucy Brannon (striker), co-captain Rory Cole (D), Timber Kelly (D), Tatum Morell (striker), Megan Murphy (MF), Claire Sauerbrey (D), Kenya Schott (D), Renee Shapiro (GK), co-captain Samantha Sutton (MF), co-captain Brigette Thomas (MF) and Olivia Thornton (D).
Sophomores (5)—Ashley Carnduff (MF), Tayte Kelly (MF), Caitlyn Sfingi (D), Megan Sfingi (D) and Julisa Vega Escobedo (D).
Freshman (1)—Jesse Cole (MF).
Sliders (V and JV)—Megan Johnston (freshman D), Royce Rheinschild (freshman striker) and Molly Whittington (freshman GK).
Sophomores—Hanna Beriker, Sarah Bunce, Alejandra Garcia, Galena Hansen, Indie Landon, Kylie Rountree, Alina Svidgal, Riley Boice, Sarah Verst and Maria Velasco.
Freshmen—Michelle Casas, Megan Johnston, Addason Park, Pilar Pennell, Riley Revallier, Royce Rheinschild, Sage Rheinschild, Nicole Shardlow, Abby Robideaux, America Tamayo, Eva Drougas and Molly Whittington.
Monday’s game with Highland
The Wolverine girls, like the Hailey boys competing in the 4A classification, have had a tougher time with 5A Highland teams over the years. Highland’s 5-2 victory Monday was the sixth straight Rams victory over Wood River by a combined 22-7 score, and the series stands 2-9-3 in Highland’s favor.
Highland has made three straight appearances in the State 5A girls’ tournament, the last two under current coach Korbie Vaughan. Last year’s 13-5-2 Rams squad lost its first game at the state tournament in Idaho Falls to eventual champion Lake City by a 1-0 score in double overtime.
Vaughan’s current team features 12 seniors, most having played through the current three-year Rams string of state soccer trips. Leading the way were senior keeper Stephanie Tyler (7 saves) and senior Makenzie Van Sickle (3 goals).
For Monday’s game, Highland out-shot Wood River 20-13 including 13-7 in the second half. The first goal came five minutes into the game when Van Sickle floated a ball over the head of Wolverine senior goalkeeper Laurel Gaeddert from 32 yards out for a 1-0 lead.
Wood River junior Brigette Thomas had her team’s best chance of the first half when she took a pass from junior Lucy Brannon and drilled a shot that caused Highland keeper Tyler to leap for the save keeping the score 1-0.
Three minutes later, Van Sickle pounded a shot off the crossbar after a pass from senior Madison Morgan, and Kami Wydick cleaned up with a header for a 2-0 lead at 34 minutes. Senior Reece Bauer’s corner kick at 36 minutes went to Van Sickle, the ball came loose and senior Veronica Moreno finished in the box for a 3-0 bulge that carried into the half.
Wood River keeper Laurel Gaeddert spent her junior year abroad in France and didn’t play soccer for coach Jenni Conrad last fall. In her first varsity start, she was aggressive throughout Monday’s game and made several solid saves to keep the score close.
Unfortunately Gaeddert (11 saves) could do little to thwart Highland’s first two goals of the half, both scored by Van Sickle behind the Hailey defense to complete her hat trick within the first five minutes after half.
For the rest of the game, Wood River stepped up its offensive pressure and scored twice, the first goal at 63 minutes on a penalty kick by freshman Jesse Cole, and the second goal at 71 minutes by Brigette Thomas, after a nice center from Claire Sauerbrey.
“After the score got to 5-0, we played with a lot of heart and played 100% the entire game,” said Conrad. “The girls played faster with their 1-2 touches and found their target up front. We pushed Jesse up front to help make it happen.”
Wood River put together three strong attacks that didn’t produce a score, but showed Rams keeper Tyler that the Wolverines were up to the task.
Tyler needed to stop a Brigette Thomas strike and Tatum Morell rebound in the box at 48 minutes. Brannon made a pretty lead pass to Cole, who shot just wide at 57 minutes. Pursuit by Cole freed up the ball deep in the Rams zone, and Emilia Bingham shot just high on a two-on-one situation.
At 68 minutes, Highland’s Madison Morgan drew a red card in a collision with Wood River’s Megan Murphy, who got a yellow. With Highland down a player, Wood River tallied its second goal on a nice set up from junior Sauerbrey to junior Thomas at 71 minutes.
The Wood River girls will gear up for their Great Basin Conference opener Wednesday, Sept. 4 against two-time defending league champion Twin Falls on the Hailey pitch. Wood River teams are winless in their last six games against Twin Falls (18-3-0), last year’s State 4A third-place team.