Soccer squad, with 11 returning senior players and a new coach, looks to unite and improve as 2017 season begins
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
I really want the girls to understand ‘team.’ We win together, we lose together. We must unite. Every player has a role in helping our team to succeed. Our strength is in our returning starters and the positive commitment of all players. It takes every player to make our team better.” – Cyndi Powers, Grayling High School Varsity Girls Soccer Coach
The varsity girls soccer squad has 11 returning seniors, several new players, and a new coach this year.
The Vikings were able to get outside for a couple of their practice sessions prior to spring break, but many of their practices were held indoors.
“First two weeks were heavy on conditioning, skills evaluation, teamwork, effort, and dedication. With so many new girls, we worked on introductory skills, touches, positioning, and field awareness. This is difficult when practicing inside, as the ball responds very differently than when played on grass. Spacing is also an issue with limited gym area, as compared to the actual pitch,” Coach Cyndi Powers said.
Powers, a Grayling Middle School teacher, is the new coach of the program.
She got an early start with many of the players by offering open soccer sessions during the winter offseason. Coach Powers said the sessions had good turnout, and having a few of the GHS boys soccer players join the open gyms helped.
“Offseason participation grew as the season got closer. Including the boys program was a benefit for greater competition,” Coach Powers said.
Coach Powers said the focus of the open gym sessions were “working on spacing, ball pressure, leading passes to open space, and intensity.”
After spring break, the Vikings were able to get outside for a week of practice. The team had a lot to work on.
“We are trying to really focus on heavy pressure from our midfielders to promote greater scoring opportunities, using the open space to our advantage and closing out options for our opponents. This is a more aggressive approach for the girls, so our learning curve is big,” Coach Powers said. “As a team, we need to improve our communication and anticipation on the field.”
What’s the team’s goal for this year?
“To compete,” Coach Powers said. “We need to be competitors, even when faced with adversities. Always battle, never quit.”
What is it like coaching this group for the first time?
“In a word, exciting,” Coach Powers said. “I am both excited and nervous about our season. I am trying to glean as much information from fellow coaches, research the best women’s college techniques, and build relationships with our team.”
This year’s GHS varsity girls soccer squad has strong overall numbers with more than 20 players.
“We have 11 returning seniors and 22 total players, five girls that have never played before, and five returning underclassmen,” Coach Powers said.
This year’s team: (seniors) Mollie Binert, Jacalyn Denton, Faith Hamilton, Ashley Haring, Corney Hickman, Molly Leslie, Dani Linderer, Haley Naumiec, Hayley Pittman, Skyler Robison, Paige Scheer; (juniors) Kalani Halstead; (sophomores) Sophia Do, Sophie Hartung, Nicole Oppermann, Abby Pippin, Esa Powers, Giulia Santoriello, Ellie Swander, Caitlin Trumble, Ashley Vitale; (freshmen) Aaliyah Essmaker.
Unity is something the Vikings are striving for early in the season.
“I really want the girls to understand ‘team.’ We win together, we lose together. We must unite. Every player has a role in helping our team to succeed,” Coach Powers said. “Our strength is in our returning starters and the positive commitment of all players. It takes every player to make our team better.”
The Vikings will host Traverse City St. Francis – a Lake Michigan Conference opponent – at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12.
Coach Powers expects the league to be strong this season.
“Lake Michigan Conference is stacked,” she said. “Harbor Springs, Charlevoix, Elk Rapids, and (Traverse City St. Francis) are all returning strong teams, as is Boyne City. They have such strong youth programs and year-round opportunities that they field talented and seasoned teams every year.”
On Wednesday, April 19, the Vikings will host Alpena – a nonconference opponent – at 5 p.m. at Viking Stadium.