Make no mistake, Mike Voss says, the move from the Metro Conference to the Sierra Foothill League is a transition that is sure to mean more competitive soccer matches each time his Miners take the field.
But, Voss added, he might just have the most talented team he’s fielded in nine seasons as Nevada Union’s coach.
“It’s the best athletic team we’ve had, from top to bottom,” said Voss, whose team finished 5-5-2 for fourth place in the Metro last season. “Even though it’s the youngest team, it’s the strongest, in terms of athletes.
“And you can overcome a lot of sins with some physical specimens running up and down the field.”
The 19-player roster includes just five seniors, including All-Metro honoree Marinda Graham at inside halfback. Ariane Turner, who splits time inside the goal and at outside halfback, also returns, as do classmates Kai Ling Clark, Mallory Meier and Erin Meyer.
But NU’s varsity roster also includes six juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen.
Nevada Union is off to a 4-4-2 start to the season and have yet to net that first SFL victory, holding an 0-1-1 mark early on. But taking a closer look at the outcomes of their matches thus far, the Miners have been within striking distance in each outing they’ve dropped. Aside from a 3-0 defeat to Roseville, the three remaining losses this spring have come by a 1-0 score.
“I’m happy with the effort,” Voss said. “The intensity and passion is great. They want to learn more and they want to go and do a lot of things.”
The athletic ability of the team has led Voss to switch up his attack on the fly. Last week, the Miners began using a 3-5-2 formation, because of the potential advantage his young athletes can take in the scheme as opposed to NU’s traditional 4-4-2 set.
“We were not carrying the midfield as much as we like to or need to,” Voss said. “They’re still learning. And they’re young, so it does make it hard for them to understand, but I think we can grow and get better in the course of the next couple of weeks. This is just going to make it so we can attack with more people and defend with more people.”
Voss says he knows the Miners will need to be on top of their game throughout the league season if they are to make a run at a playoff berth in a conference that includes three league champions from last season.
Defending SFL champion Rocklin is off to a strong start with an 11-3-1 record, but fell to league newcomer Oakmont 1-0 a week ago today. Oakmont moved into the SFL after winning the Pioneer Valley League championship in 2006. Also likely in the mix will be Granite Bay, which won the Metro Conference title last spring prior to making the move to the SFL from the Metro along with the Miners.
“I appreciate the league we’re in,” Voss said. “I enjoy being in a league where you have to have a soccer game every time you play a league game.
“This year’s league is a lot stronger from top to bottom than we’ve been in.”
NU returns to league action at 3:30 p.m. today at home against Oakmont.
Forest Lake Christian
After falling one goal short in last season’s Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division V championship, Forest Lake Christian’s Falcons make their goal for 2007 crystal clear.
“The girls definitely want to take it all the way,” said FLC coach Alane Burke, “and, this time, win it.”
FLC (4-5) fell to Modesto Christian 1-0 in the finals at Lincoln High School in Stockton last spring, capping a season which saw the Falcons finish second in the Central Valley Christian League and then score a 3-1 win over Central Catholic to advance to the D-V final match.
Returning to the team with hopes of making that return trip to championship round, this time in their newly-aligned Division VI, are five Falcon seniors. They include stopper Kim D’Antonio, center midfielder Shelby Lowe, forward Ellia Meade, stopper Chelsea McGirr and sweeper Aubrey Stellzner. Lowe, McGirr and Stellzner serve as the team’s captains.
The team is also bolstered by three returning juniors in center midfielder Jessica Raskin, defender Katie Shore and Katie Fletcher, the team’s goalkeeper.
“We’ve also got five really strong freshmen and they’re all really gelling and playing really well,” Burke said. “The best thing about it is that everybody just wants the best 11 players on the field that day.”
Burke said she expects Vacaville Christian and Victory Christian to be key opponents in the quest for a championship in the Central Valley Christian League, which includes just five teams this spring.
“With five teams in the league, one mistake, one time can really affect things much more,” Burke said. “We only have eight league games.”
The Falcons first CVCL match was to hit the pitch Tuesday at Woodland Christian.
Six of the nine returning varsity players are seniors and Bear River coach Dave Barnes also has four newcomers already playing key roles.
With last year’s graduation, Bear River said goodbye to goalkeeper/forward Crystal Bailey and 2006 classmate Nikki Mathis, who took her talents to play for Biola University.
The Bruins finished the 2006 campaign with a 3-11-1 mark, in which all three wins came in Pioneer Valley League play. The most notable of those victories was a 3-0 victory over rival, and PVL runner-up Colfax.
The good news for Bear River is the player who netted all three of those goals in that victory returns for her senior season. Genevieve Speas, a center midfielder, will also serve as senior captain for the Bruins.
Also returning for their senior season are Brittaney Adams (center midfielder), Karrie Beeman (stopper), Sierra Brown (wing), Samantha Eggers (stopper), Lana Puckett (forward) and Courtney Howell (goalkeeper).
Bear River (1-5) is off to an 0-4 start in the Pioneer Valley League, which Barnes said will likely come down to Colfax and Placer vying for the top spot. Colfax was the league-runner-up last season, earning a postseason berth.
Oakmont, which won the league title after producing a 12-0 PVL record, was moved to the Sierra Foothill League under the section’s league realignment.
The Bruins hosted PVL foe Mesa Verde Tuesday.
Contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4240.
2007 Soccer season outlook
Bear River Bruins
Coach: Dave Barnes (3rd season)
Last season: 3-11-1 (3-8-1, sixth place in Pioneer Valley League)
Key losses: Crystal Bailey, Vanessa Martin, Nikki Mathis
Key returnees: Brittaney Adams (Sr. midfielder), Karrie Beeman (Sr. stopper), Milanda Belonavek (So. sweeper), Sierra Brown (Sr. wing), Samantha Eggers (Sr. stopper), Courtney Howell (Sr. goalkeeper), Liz Jeffries (So. forward), Rachel Jones (Jr. forward), Lana Puckett (Sr. forward), Genevieve Speas (Sr. midfielder).
Key newcomers: Megan Franks (So. wing), Hannah Nicholson (Jr. fullback), Melissa Wampler (Fr. fullback), Taylor Slotte (So. midfielder).
Conference: Pioneer Valley League. Top contenders include Colfax, the 2006 PVL runner-up, and Placer, which moved from the SFL this season.
Key games: April 24 home against Colfax, April 27 at Placer
Forest Lake Christian Falcons
Coach: Alane Burke (3rd season)
Last season: 17-5-5 (10-2-4, second place in Central Valley Christian League; Division V Sac-Joaquin Section runner-up)
Key losses: Jillian Witzke, Taryn McGirr, Megan Stallings, Rachel Kerber, Sarah Hodges
Key returnees: Shelby Lowe (Sr. midfielder), Aubrey Stellzner (Sr. sweeper), Chelsea McGirr (Sr. stopper), Ellia Meade (Sr. forward), Kim D’Antonio (Sr. stopper), Jessica Raskin (Jr. midfielder), Katie Shore (Jr. defender), Katie Fletcher (Jr. goalkeeper).
Key newcomers: Logan Burke (Fr.), Kacie McGeary (Fr.), Morghan Pomeroy (Fr.), Katelyn Seitz (Fr.), Christa Weisman (Fr.).
Conference: Central Valley Christian League. Top contenders include Vacaville Christian, Victory Christian and Woodland Christian.
Coach Burke says: “The girls definitely want to take it all the way and, this time, win it.”
Nevada Union Miners
Coach: Mike Voss (9th season)
Last season: 8-12-2 (4-8, fourth place in Metro Conference)
Key losses: Leigh Collins, Kasey Rogers, Erica Goody, Diana Rubio
Key returnees: Kai Ling Clark (Sr. midfielder), Jocelyn Rapp (Jr. defender), Ariane Turner (Sr. goalkeeper), Avery Vaughn (Jr. goalkeeper), Marinda Graham (Sr. halfback), Mallory Meier (Sr., halfback), Erin Meyer (Sr. defender), Molly Augustus (Jr. halfback).
Conference: Sierra Foothill League. Top contenders are 2006 league champions Granite Bay (Metro Conference), Rocklin (Sierra Foothill League) and Oakmont (Pioneer Valley League).
Coach Voss says: “”It’s the best athletic team we’ve had, from top to bottom. Even though it’s the youngest team, it’s the strongest, in terms of athletes.”
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Grass Valley native Brad Sweet drove past the competition and into victory lane last week, snapping his longest winless streak of the season.