Prep soccer: Goals are in sight for Worthington soccer teams
BY AARON HAGEN
WORTHINGTON -- For the Worthington soccer programs, there is much reason for optimism.
For the boys, the Trojans are coming off a state tournament appearance a year ago and return key players. On the girls side, WHS has a strong returning core that will look to make strides this year.
Things will look a little different for the Trojan boys this season as Juan Flores takes the reigns as the head coach.
“It's been one of the things I've wanted to do since I graduated high school,” said Flores, who is a 2011 WHS graduate and played collegiately at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. “I always said I want to come back here, I want to coach the high school team when the time is right. The opportunity was there and I'm just thankful with everybody involved through the process with me. I have a good chance here and a good opportunity and I'm thankful for that.”
The Trojans will feel the pressure, however, after the only loss a year ago came at the state tournament.
“The pressure is on, but I like to think that we can build a good team and we can be competitive with a lot of these guys returning and having that experience under our belt,” Flores said. “We have a lot of young talent coming up that I've seen and I've coached previous years.”
Returning is one of the state’s leading scorers in Jon Keodouangsy. However, Flores said there are others who will need to score in order to have success.
“We are hoping for guys to step up, I think anybody in any position can score,” Flores said. “You don't really have to be a certain position to score a goal. Whether it's a free kick, whether it's a corner kick, somebody can score. As long as we have consistency in finishing and attacking and taking advantage of the chances we get, I think that's going to be huge for as long as we put it in the back of the net.”
With a larger number of returners and young players ready to step up, Flores admits the expectations are high.
“We don't want to get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “We'll take it one game at a time, we'll see where it goes and we'll just go by that. We're going to have a lot of competition; there are going to be a lot of teams that are going to be good. We look forward to starting the season and see how we play.”Girls
The girls team didn’t suffer too many losses due to graduation a year ago, leading head coach Emily Ahlquist to be optimistic about the progress her team is making.
“We have a lot of the same girls back and they’ve been playing together for a few years,” she said. “They just have a connection on the field and work well together. A lot of them played summer soccer this year and then we started an indoor program in the winter. Just having more experience and playing more than just the soccer season, we’re seeing that progress play out with the girls that we have.”
Worthington struggled last year, finishing without a win.
“We focus on making progress and getting better and bettering ourselves and not focusing on beating other teams. Obviously we want to win and we want to try to beat the opponents we play against,” Ahlquist said. “We want to better ourselves and that’s always going to be our focus. But until we start being more competitive with the teams we play against, we just have to keep those goals in our mind.”
But, with an experienced squad, Ahlquist sees improvement, especially in being able to score goals.
“We have a very strong midfield this year, that’s kind of where it starts,” the coach said. “Our midfield are the playmakers. In the years past we’ve had so much focus on defense because that’s where we’re getting attacked all the time, so we put some of our strongest players on defense. As we’ve grown through the program in the last few years, our defense is strong and now we’re focusing on a strong midfield and forwards.”
The midfield will be anchored by returning players Victoria Esquivel, Jacqueline Perez, Ariel Reveles, Yesenia Cruz and Heidi Ramirez. Saleen Thepmontry and Marilyn Orellana return at forward, while defenders Betty Garcia and Judy Keophimphone are back.
With strong midfield and forward play, Ahlquist is confident that will lead to more goals. In early-season scrimmages, WHS was able to make more offensive plays, a trend Ahlquist hopes continues into the regular season. The Trojans open their season Thursday.