When team tryouts began nearly two weeks ago, Douglas High girls soccer coach Jenny Jaggard thought she was set on a roster limit.
To her surprise, and a pleasant one at that, those plans have been changed to provide a boost to what she had already thought would be a solid roster.
“We picked 21 for the team, which was a little bigger than I intended,” Jaggard said. “When I went into tryouts, I was thinking probably 18. I was just so impressed with a couple of extra individuals that I said, ‘I’ve got to take them. They’re just too good to drop to J.V.”
The result is an experienced, versatile squad that has high hopes and expectations coming into a new season scheduled to open on Tuesday at home against Spanish Springs.
“The majority of the team is older and experienced,” Jaggard said. “I’m looking forward to a great season. We’ve got a really good team.”
Start with that experience. Thirteen returnees are back, seven of whom earned all-league recognition, from a team that went 17-4 and advanced to the regional tournament semifinals last year. And while the group is experienced, only two of the 13 are seniors, which bodes well for the future as well.
Sophomore McKenna Kynett returns as a first-team all-league forward and junior Hannah Coverley as an all-league defensive player. Coverley is entering her third season as a starting midfielder.
Samantha Crawford was also a second-team all-league midfielder and four other Tigers received honorable mention recognition: Kassidy Freitas, Corryne Millett, Camry Varble and Allissa Holley.
The Tigers expect to put a dynamic offense on the field that features many weapons.
“We’ve got some great potential as far as being a very attacking, aggressive team,” Jaggard said.
Sophomore McKenna Kynett led the team in scoring in 2012 with 29 goals to tie the state and school single-season records. Junior Alexis von Schottenstein, the top scorer in 2011 (21 goals, 7 assists), also returns after missing the 2012 season with an ACL injury.
“Lexi’s back and she definitely will be somebody to look out for,” Jaggard said.
So is Holley, who missed the second half of the season after going down with an injury. She was leading the team in scoring at the time of her injury, according to Jaggard.
The Tigers sound downright offensive.
“That’s the idea of soccer is to score goals,” Jaggard said. “We want to entertain the crowd and have a lot of fun.”
This is not, however, a one-dimensional team.
“Honestly, we’re really solid everywhere,” Jaggard said. “We’ve got a lot of options, and a lot of players who are capable of playing multiple positions. We’ve got people who are excellent forwards and good scorers who also have a lot of potential as defensive players.”
In the midfield, Jaggard noted that Varble is a “tenacious, scrappy player,” Crawford creates “scoring opportunities with her vision and skilled passing” and Emily Lawrence brings “excellent vision and leadership qualities.” Caitlin Jones (all-league in 2011), Caitlin Bidart and Gabriela Vega are all playmakers on the wings. Megan Sheets returns with experience as a right defender and another player who has emerged as a player to watch is sophomore Carly Johnson, who worked her way into a starting role in 2012.
The team’s depth can even be seen at goalkeeper, where Millett is the veteran but facing a challenge from freshman Grace Brooks.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Jaggard said. “I think she’s going to keep our older keeper on her toes as far as being able to play 80 minutes. They might share time … we’ll see.”
Contributions are also expected from a group of newcomers that includes Silvia Fernstrom, a transer, Tiffany Roberts, Hannah Schweigert, Karla Meza, Ashley Hellwinkel and freshman Joelle Penny.
One big question remains before Tuesday’s season opener since air quality issues have limited the Tigers to practice inside a gym for the past week.
“I can’t wait to get them on a big field,” Jaggard said. “With these practices, I really haven’t seen my players on the field too much outside of tryouts.
“It’s been crazy just trying to coordinate with everybody, but I’ve been really impressed with just how athletics in general has been handling it. Everybody’s been real patient, all of the coaches have been good about letting everybody get a chance. It’s just taken a lot of cooperation.”