Kicking into gear
North Idaho schools look to build upon recent soccer successes
North Idaho prep football, volleyball and girls basketball teams historically have fared well at state.
Soccer is another sport where area teams are making names for themselves at the state level.
The 2009 season should be no different. Sandpoint’s boys should make a serious run at defending their 4A state championship while Coeur d’Alene’s girls, state champs three years ago, could challenge for another state title.
That’s not to overlook a handful of other area teams.
Here’s a look at the area teams:
Coeur d’Alene: The defending regional champion Vikings (10-10 overall, 5-5 league) graduated just two starters and return 13 lettermen. So they hope to be making some state noise come late October.
The returning starters are junior goalkeeper Jimmy Keith, senior forward Jordon Eborall, senior midfielder Forrest Walker, junior defender Drew Morgan, junior defender Grant Stimmel, senior midfielder Scott McMurdie, sophomore forward Adam Borsheim, senior defender Carson Green and senior midfielder Casey Shellman. Walker was a first-team all-league pick.
Other returning lettermen are senior forward Shelby Barrera, senior forward Patrick Green, sophomore midfielder Parker Heisey and junior midfielder Alex Troxel.
“The proof is there, you get better in training,” CdA coach Eric Louis said. “It took us the whole season to get there last year. This year they’re starting with it.”
CdA returns with its defense intact.
“That is definitely a strength,” Louis said. “They know each other well, they’re smart and they distribute confidently.”
Lake City: At this point last year, coach Chad Beadell headed into the season four starters down because of injuries.
None of the starters returned, and things didn’t get much better as the season progressed either.
The T-Wolves (9-5-2, 7-2-1) return four starters: senior midfielder Matt Lieggi, senior defender Cameron Hosack, senior midfielder James Mueller and junior defender/midfielder Chris Wheelock.
Junior goalkeeper Nick Higgs returns after missing last year recovering from two ACL surgeries. Other returning lettermen are junior defender Ryan Clark, senior forward Tom Osborne-Moss and junior midfielder Donald Osborne-Moss.
LC must overcome the graduation of 12 players.
“It’s been kind of a weird fall,” Beadell said. “We’re making better strides than I thought we would. We’re going to be better than I thought. Some of the younger guys have stepped up.”
Post Falls: Talk about a program with promise.
Post Falls (3-12-1, 1-9-1) has yet to qualify a team to state since fielding teams beginning in 1996. But the Trojans should be in the battle for state berths this year.
The Trojans return six starters and four other lettermen. Returning starters are senior midfielder Dalton Vander Pol, senior forward Glenn Marves, sophomore goalie Scott Benner, senior defender Charline Redline, junior defender Nathan Whalen and junior midfielder Connor Kenna. Benner was the league’s newcomer of the year last fall.
The other key returners are senior defender Tyler Lalk, sophomore defender Alex Mouchett, sophomore midfielder Matt Howard and senior forward Wesley Billingslea.
“For the first time the prospects are good as long as we stay healthy,” PF coach Gabe Lawson said. “I think we can do pretty well. They’re in super condition. They’re ready to go.”
Sandpoint: The Bulldogs (19-1-0, 9-1-0) will be out to capture their eighth state title this decade.
They have a solid nucleus, with some freshmen who will be counted on to contribute. Sandpoint returns six starters. They are senior defender/forward Adam Crossingham, senior midfielder/forward Daniel Anderson, senior midfielder Anders Nostahl, junior forward Tanner Williams, senior midfielder Zac Linscott and junior defender Jansen Rink.
Anderson was the league’s most valuable player last year, Crossingham was the offensive player of the year and Williams and Nostahl were first-team selections.
Senior defender Mikka Nostahl and junior midfielder Matt Miller also return.
“The rest of the team is very young and very inexperienced,” Sandpoint coach Randy Thoreson said.
Thoreson will start his first freshman, Eric Wehse, in goal.
“He’s a workaholic,” Thoreson said. “He’s a great kid. He’s one of those coaching blessings. He does whatever you want and more.”
Sandpoint played its first match with five starters on the sidelines nursing various injuries.
Thoreson is looking forward to the challenge of blending new faces with the veterans.
“I really like the attitudes of the younger players,” he said. “They’ve accepted the philosophy of the program, which is basically you can make mistakes technically and tactically, but if there’s a lack of effort you’ll hear about it. It could be a tale of two seasons for us. We might take a few lumps early, but I wouldn’t want to play us by the end of the year.”
Lakeland: Coach Nick Haynes announced his intention to resign before the season a year ago.
Then the economy began to collapse and all of a sudden Haynes needed the extra income afforded by the coaching salary.
So Haynes is back. Lakeland (8-7-1) returns four starters: senior defender Caleb Thompson, senior defender Will Stein, junior defender Brian Hann and sophomore midfielder Leo Schnepf.
Other returners are senior midfielder Brandon Richardson, senior midfielder Zac Graves, sophomore defender Ryan Allred and senior goalie Hunter Jones.
Lakeland will start at least four freshmen and as many as three sophomores.
“We’re really young,” Haynes said. “But we’ve got some good young kids coming. The talent level overall is better. We’re just young.”
Coeur d’Alene: The nucleus reminds coach Tarragh Carr of the senior-laden group that captured a state title three years ago.
The Vikings (10-6-4, 6-0-4) return seven starters and four other lettermen. The starters are junior goalie Christine Woeller, senior midfielder Meghan Roletto, senior defender Rachel Crawford, senior midfielder Sarah Jordan, junior midfielder Whitney Wood, senior forward Hayley Smith and senior defender Kelsey Kinkle.
The other returners are senior midfielder Kady Suhr, senior midfielder Chemae Roberts, senior defender Emily Cheesman and junior midfielder Kacey Brunner.
Crawford, Wood and Smith were first-team all-league picks last year.
“I really like their work ethic,” Carr said. “The whole team seems to be pretty focused. We have an awesome vibe. They love the game and they’re truly into each other.”
Carr likes what she’s seen so far.
“This is a group that has the potential to do whatever they want this year,” she said. “They each possess such broad talents. Setting a starting lineup will really be hard.”
Lake City: The Timberwolves (5-5-6, 3-2-5) return eight starters and six other lettermen.
The returning starters are junior forward Anna Teall, senior defender Nicole Medeiros, junior defender Tori Cozad, sophomore midfielder Nikki Webster, senior midfielder Nicole Danner, junior midfielder Hailey Spivey, senior forward Marlee Elmer and senior midfielder Kaya Garringer. Medeiros and Webster were first-team all-league picks.
The other returners are junior forward Kelee Tilson, senior forward Angela Nash, junior forward McKenzie Baer, junior midfielder Kate Nichols, junior forward Becky Short and junior midfielder Jordan Chandler.
“We have a big junior class,” LC coach Matt Ruchti said. “We expect a lot out of them.”
Ruchti expects his team to challenge CdA.
“Every day it seems like we’re getting a little bit better,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure on our junior class to perform. They’re definitely talented enough to do some nice things.”
Post Falls: Like the Trojans boys, the girls are looking for their first state berth since beginning play in 1996.
Could the Post Falls soccer teams both break through this year?
The girls (5-12-1, 3-6-1) have a solid nucleus. They return 10 starters: junior forward Tareyn White, junior forward Reagan Van Gelder, junior goalie Hannah Slinkard, junior midfielder Stefanie Siers, senior forward/midfielder Kara Siers, senior midfielder Heidi Mueller, senior midfielder/forward Olivia Mouchett, senior defender Krysta Howard, junior defender Kendall Hoerner and senior defender/forward Kacie Shields.
White and Kara Siers were first-team all-league picks.
Three other returners are senior defender/midfielder Lexi Gerome, junior midfielder Jessica Engel and senior defender Chelsea Mallory.
The Trojans welcomed a talented transfer from East Valley, Aubree Mercier, a junior forward. Rounding out the team are junior defender Jackie Amende, junior forward Jennifer Briseno and sophomore defender Jessica Waller.
“There’s a lot to like,” PF coach Rob Rowe said. “This is my fourth year. When I took over, Post Falls hadn’t had a lot of success. My plan was to build a program. We’ve set some lofty goals, loftier than we’ve ever set before.”
Sandpoint: The Bulldogs (14-4-4, 7-0-3) return to 4A after two seasons at 5A.
This could be a good year to be back in the lower classification. The Bulldogs return just three starters. They are senior defender Alicia Mertz, senior defender Elli Kiselica and sophomore forward Ellie Engel. Mertz was a first-team all-league pick.
Other returning lettermen are senior defender Jessica Dexter, sophomore midfielder Nichole Pagano, senior midfielder Savannah Engel and junior midfielder Sydney Morris.
Sandpoint has just four seniors.
“One of the most exciting things is how much energy everybody has and how excited for the season they are,” Sandpoint coach Adam Tajan said. “We have a lot of new faces.”
Lakeland: The Hawks (13-2-3) return six starters and five other lettermen.
The returning starters are senior defender Bailey Thompson, senior defender Alyssa McCullough, junior midfielder Emily Stecker, sophomore defender Toni Tapplin, sophomore midfielder Keelani Duffy and senior forward Marisa Watson.
The other lettermen are senior midfielder Stephanie Trammel, sophomore goalie Cambrae Steinke, sophomore midfielder Promise Dooley and sophomore midfielder Hailey Palmiter.
Lakeland will start two freshmen.
“We’re a real mix of old and young,” Lakeland coach Mario Maddy said. “They’ve created options for themselves through their hard work.”
Maddy thinks the team that matures the fastest will emerge among the 4A teams.
“We’ll have growing pains,” Maddy said. “It’ll come down to who grows up the fastest. Sandpoint is probably the favorite based on tradition.”
Timberlake: The second-year program returns six starters, five of whom are sophomores.
The sophomore returners are forward Sierra Michael, forward Sam Simmons, midfielder Kayla Bowers, forward Alisha Kidd and midfielder Hailey Emerson. Senior Maddy Hightower returns in goal.
Of the 20 players coach Steve Michael kept on the team, 14 are freshmen and sophomores.
“I’m pretty lucky as a coach to have this balance and support,” he said. “Last year the freshman class carried us. I like the fact that there’s a lot more balance this year.”
The Tigers fell a goal short of earning a state playoff berth. They lost to eventual state champ Fruitland in a play-in match.