Hit the water swimming | TheUnion.com

Hit the water swimming

With a share of the Dixon tournament title and a league win already under their swim caps, the Nevada Union Lady Miners are off to a strong start in their 2013 season.

This year’s squad is younger than seasons past, but with senior Nicole Blaney leading the way, head coach Craig Zetterberg believes this team can hang with the best the Sierra Foothill League has to offer.

“We do have talent,” he said. “But we really have only two starters with varsity experience. There will be those games where everything clicks, and there will be some with rookie mistakes. But when it clicks, it’s really pretty.”

With two-time all-SFL player and three-year varsity starter Blaney in the pool, the Miners have a chance against any team in the league.

“(Blaney) is, in my opinion, the best hole set in the league,” Zetterberg said. “But she will play there only a little bit at a time because teams will drop on her. So she’s got to play other places, and that doesn’t bother her. She’s happy to do it.”

The Lady Miners have added two freshmen players, Kei Castleberry and Shawna Latter, to their squad, both of whom will see plenty of pool time, said Zetterberg.

“They’re not just putting the cap on and watching,” he said. “We expect stuff from them.”

In Zetterberg’s six years at the helm of the girls team, he has only had two sophomores come up early to varsity. One of those was Blaney.

“I’m hoping I made the right decision,” he said. “We all certainly talked about it, they’re awesome kids, and the chemistry is such that I think it’s the right thing. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think it was the right thing.”

Blaney said she thinks Zetterberg made the right decision.

“They’re doing really well, and I think (Zetterberg) made an excellent choice bringing them up.”

Blaney’s experience and leadership will likely be key to the success of not only the team but the progression of the younger players.

“She’s a great leader,” Zetterberg said of Blaney. “She talks with the kids. She’s completely unselfish. She helps with the freshmen. In our Sonora game, she led in the pool, she scored our first two goals, they were hanging with us, we moved her to defense, and she completely shut them down. She is a unique individual, she’s a great player, and yet she remains team-oriented.”

The Lady Miners also welcome transfer student Sarah Cudworth, who Zetterberg said is coming along and will be an asset to the team. NU also has Faith Robichaud and Ellie DeMartini in the rotation, and they bring varsity experience to the table.

NU does replace Carly Messex, a two-year starter, in the goal. Tending the net for the Lady Miners will be junior Taylor Masch.

“Her strongest asset is her arm,” Zetterberg said. “You wouldn’t think of a soccer goalie or a hockey goalie and passing being the most important thing, but for us, it is. It’s great if you can block the ball as well, but passing is paramount. A lot of times when the ball is stolen, it’s passed back to the goalie, and that first pass, if its on the money, it can result in a goal. If it’s off, it can lead to one coming back.”

Like the boys team, the girls squad boasts of its team unity and work toward improving it.

“I’m excited to improve our communication and harmony with the team,” DeMartini said. “I think the key is working well together, communication and being friends. It’s hard to trust each other if you don’t trust each other.”

Blaney said if the season had a storybook ending, the Lady Miners would win it all. But the games are played in reality and she has a good grip on it.

“I think it will be how it was last year in that there will be four teams in the running for the playoffs and we have a shot to make it,” she said. “But it’s going to take a lot of work and dedication from the girls to do it.”

The Lady Miners will have the likes of Granite Bay, Del Oro and Bear River to contend with at the top of the SFL, and with only three playoff spots for four teams, every game is critical.

The Lady Miners, already 1-0 in the SFL, will look to go 2-0 when they host Roseville today.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

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