Girls’ Soccer: Young Tiger squad just beginning to hit its stride | RecordCourier.com

Girls’ Soccer: Young Tiger squad just beginning to hit its stride

by Joey Crandall

Obviously after winning the state and regional titles, the Douglas girls’ soccer team will enter 2010 with a large target on its back.

For most programs, that adds an immense amount of pressure. For Douglas, they’ve already been wearing the target for two years.

It was a natural fit after shocking the region with an impressive showing during the 2008 preseason tournament. The Tigers went on to blast through the Sierra League and the first two rounds of the regional playoffs before losing to Reed in the regional championship.

With a large portion of its starting lineup back coming into this season, the target naturally stuck around for another year.

“We had the target on our back last year and it ended up firing us up even more,” Douglas coach Lorraine Fitzhugh said. “The girls who were freshmen last year learned from playing with that type of pressure and put it into play this year.

“I hope we can get that same type of motivation again because everyone else is going to be coming for us. It’ll start with the first kickoff and it won’t let up.”

And it’s pretty much going to have to be that way for someone to unseat the Tigers. 2009 was as close to a rebuilding year as the team is going to have for at least two more seasons.

By the end of the year, Douglas wasn’t starting a single senior. On top of that, only three juniors started for the Tigers during the state tournament. That means the large majority of Douglas’ lineup this year didn’t even have their driver’s licenses

yet.

“These girls are really very academic about what they do,” Fitzhugh said. “They are not full of themselves. There’s not one kid that is a prima donna, so to speak. They welcome pressure, it’s good. It’s not something to shy away from, and they know enough to know it can make us better.

“As a team, they are all just strong, consistent fighters.”

One hurdle the Tigers had to clear this season was their tendency to allow teams to hang around in close games, which came up to bite them in a late-season loss at home to South Tahoe.

“They learned a lot from that game,” Fitzhugh said. “They saw that if they didn’t focus their attack early, we’d be playing in those close games. We watched the film from South Tahoe and the girls saw how slow they looked. Watching that definitely woke them up.

“We focused on putting people on the defensive far sooner in the game. You saw it in the two state games (Where Douglas scored five first-half goals). That was a good growth factor for us as a team. It was satisfying to see we could go at teams that were trying to pack the back defensively. We got some really nice shots across on that.

“They tend to be on the calm side as a group, very patient. It’s a great attribute, they never give up, they are patient until it happens for them. But at times we were too calm. There were games during the year where it took us too long to wake up.”

The message came across as the Tigers scored first-half goals in six of their final seven games of the year. They had six goals during that stretch that came in the first 15 minutes of the game.

“We just started having more dynamic play in the first half,” Fitzhugh said. “They just found ways to connect with each other on the field and battle through. The tendency, especially when you get to the playoffs, is to kind of play for a one-goal game and pack the defense in the meantime.

“I don’t like that style, and I don’t think the girls like it either. Their M.O. is not to sit back. In pressure situations, you just can’t go there. It opens up the door to simply playing not to lose.”

Douglas doesn’t lose much in terms of overall numbers, but they do lose one of their top scorers in CJ Baumgartner (14 goals, three assists) along with Jillian Brune and Nicole Duster.

Among the returners will be eight sophomores and two freshmen from this year, many of which grew up playing for the successful Carson Valley Net Rippers club.

“I really can’t take credit for the way these girls have played over the last two years,” Fitzhugh said. “These girls, who they are, it really points back to their families. It shows where they come from and how dedicated they are.

“I can’t say enough about the community of coaching they’ve had all along. What they accomplished this year is really just a credit to everyone who has been involved, from the school’s administration right on down.”

Joey Crandall can be reached at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.