Trying for three: South Tahoe girls soccer aims for third straight state championship with new coach, young team
2015 South Tahoe Girls Soccer Schedule
Aug. 29 vs. Montgomery, 1:30 p.m.
*Sept. 9 vs. Spring Creek, 5 p.m.
*Sept. 11 vs. Elko, 5 p.m.
*Sept. 18 vs. Lowry, 5 p.m.
*Sept. 19 at Fallon, Noon
*Sept. 23 at Dayton, 4 p.m.
Sept. 24 vs. Douglas, 6 p.m. (STMS)
*Sept. 26 vs. Sparks, Noon
*Sept. 30 at Truckee, 5 p.m.
*Oct. 3 at Fernley, Noon
*Oct. 9 at Elko, 4 p.m.
*Oct. 10 at Spring Creek, Noon
*Oct. 15 at Lowry, 6 p.m.
*Oct. 17 vs. Fallon, Noon
*Oct. 21 vs. Dayton, 2 p.m.
*Oct. 24 at Sparks, Noon
*Oct. 27 vs. Truckee, 4 p.m.
*Oct. 30 vs. Fernley, 6 p.m.
Nov. 2 vs. Incline, 5 p.m. (STMS)
*Div. I-A Northern League match
Home matches in bold, played at STHS unless noted
After an offseason characterized by change, the ultimate goal remains the same for the South Tahoe girls soccer team. The Vikings enter the 2015 season with a new coach and a relatively untested group; but they are still intent on winning a third straight Div. I-A state championship and continuing the program’s recent success.
“At this point it seems like an expectation, but we just have to do all that’s in our power,” senior defender Zoe D’Angelo said. “I think the next couple of months will be a really good time and we’re ready to put in the work.”
Offseason changes started at the top for South Tahoe after winning a fourth state title in five seasons in 2014. Former junior varsity coach Mark Salmon was named head coach of the Vikings in June, replacing Jeremy Evans. In two seasons, Evans led South Tahoe to a pair of state championships and a 39-7-4 record.
“I’m not brand new,” said Salmon, who coached the Vikings JV team for the past two seasons. “These kids have been around me since the first grade, so they know me and they know my voice.”
Salmon’s familiarity with South Tahoe’s program and soccer in the area played a big role in his hiring. The Vikings are counting on continuity to build on a successful half-decade on the pitch.
“It would have felt odd if there was just a random person stepping in — we know Mark and we know his coaching style,” said senior defender Molly Jaggard. “I like the change. I think it’s good to get to know a new team and a new coach.”
On the field, South Tahoe faces the challenge of losing 11 seniors that graduated last year after delivering a second straight state championship. The Vikings must replace their production while finding new leaders — but Salmon said that might not be a bad thing.
“It’s a little bit quieter out there for sure, but at the same time it’s become a little bit more positive; they’re all a little bit more polite,” Salmon said. “It’s a little bit tighter group, and we’re not going to deal with the team bonding issues that I’ve seen over the past two years.”
Returning starters D’Angelo and Jaggard are two players tasked with filling that leadership role. Salmon called the senior defenders “the backbone” of this year’s Vikings’ team.
“They’re leaders, just in different ways — positive, but soft-spoken leaders,” Salmon said. “They’re massively intelligent kids. They read the game well and have high soccer IQs.”
Though South Tahoe’s top two scorers from last season graduated, two players that carried the scoring in the state tournament are back. Senior Ashlee Schouten will play a major role in attack after scoring 17 goals last season, including two in the state semifinals and one in the title game; and the return of the Cal State Monterey Bay signee provides a boost for the Vikings.
“You need that veteran leadership and that spark. Everybody knows when she steps on the field that something could happen,” Salmon said. “She’s a game changer. It brings everybody’s confidence up when she’s on the field.”
Sophomore midfielder Annie Brejc scored 15 goals last season, none bigger than the overtime game-winner that lifted South Tahoe to the Div. I-A state championship. Senior Alejandra Gutierrez also brings experience in attack, along with strong possession skills.
“They’re veterans and they’ve been there before — the nerves are down,” Salmon said.
South Tahoe’s varsity newcomers provide an influx of talent from a JV team that went 15-3 and won the Div. I-A Northern League title in 2014. And though the talented group might be unfamiliar with the varsity level, Salmon said they know how to handle pressure.
“They expect to win no matter where they are, whether it’s high school or club,” Salmon said. “It’s already been set by themselves, their teammates, their parents, their coaches and it’s another day for them.”
Junior Claudia Janese will start at goalkeeper for South Tahoe, a player that Salmon said has potential to play between the pipes at the collegiate level. Junior Marissa Hasslinger led the JV team with 21 goals last season and is the Vikings’ fastest player on the pitch. Other newcomers expected to make an immediate impact include Emma Dayberry, Lulu Gutierrez, Maria Martinez and Bailee Salmon.
South Tahoe will begin the season running a 4-4-2, a formation that suits its balance throughout the field. Out of that formation, Salmon said the Vikings will spread teams out with possession-oriented soccer and have the ability to score from anywhere on the field.
“We’re not going to have superstars in certain positions, but it’s everywhere,” Salmon said. “By the end of the season, I hope we’ve figured out the proper system of play based on our personnel and are able to put it all together.”
A third straight Div. I-A state championship is South Tahoe’s primary objective this season. When asked if that was the case, D’Angelo and Jaggard simply replied “Definitely” at the same time.
“The key is teamwork and hard work — we’re not going to get anywhere by being lazy, just sitting around and waiting for other people to do what we need to do,” Jaggard said. “This year’s team has a lot of potential and we can do the same thing that last year’s team did.”
South Tahoe opens the 2015 season Saturday, Aug. 29 against Montgomery (Santa Rosa, Calif.) at Viking Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.