Losing seven starters – including both goalies and all their starting defense – the girls’ soccer team was prepared for setbacks this season.
“The biggest difference between this year and last is definitely our defense,” sophomore Lia Kaufman said. “We still have a strong midfield and forward.”
And coach George Champayne agreed.
“The better we defend, the better our offense will be,” Champayne said. “I’m testing (sophomore) Michaela (Chen) back there and (senior) Elizabeth (Brownridge) and throwing (Kaufman) back there sometimes. Even (senior) Natalie (Brown).”
He’s also added some brand-new players, including freshmen Naomi Turnbull and Emma Boersma, to the defense.
“I’m trying to make up for losing the four defenders and building from the back up,” Champayne said.
And the new line-up has obviously been working, since the team remained undefeated (5-0) after their game on Thursday, Jan. 12.
One reason is starters sophomore Abby LaComb and Kaufman.
Of the 21 team goals, seven have been scored by LaComb and six by Kaufman.
Last year LaComb led the team with 13 goals, and Kaufman followed with 10.
LaComb and Kaufman are why, despite the defensive challenges, the team is very strong.
“We have the ability to pass the ball more and make diagonal runs,” Champayne said. “I have eight players that really know what they are doing, and four or five are good veterans.”
One of these veterans is Brown, who has scored five goals.
Other players have also stepped up.
LaComb especially praised keepers Chen, freshman Alyssa Valverde and junior Lea Gorny.
Chen has saved 11 shots on goal and allowed none.
“The hardest part is probably the mentality,” she said. “Once the ball gets past you and into the goal, you automatically blame yourself and think it’s all your fault.”
However, of all the players, Brown has stepped up the most, according to Champayne.
“If you could have seen her at the Encina game, she went all out,” he said. “She was covered in mud and got taken out three times in the biggest puddle. But she kept playing the whole game.”
Brown scored two goals and had one assist in that Dec. 9 game, when the girls destroyed the Bulldogs 9-0.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score and had a lot of shots on frame,” LaComb said. “As a team we played really well and connected. (The ball) was rarely on our half, and our defense was strong.”
The field condition is what stood out the most to Champayne.
“We played on such a horrible field,” Champayne said. “But we came together after about the first 15 minutes. Once we got the ball rolling out, everyone was involved.
“It was kind of beautiful soccer. I was surprised.”
To make playoffs, the Cavs must finish in the top two teams in league.
This means defeating their biggest rivals, the Buckingham Knights (4-0).
Last year, the girls’ defeated the Knights, 5-4 but lost to them, 2-6, two weeks later. And Buckingham ended up winning the league.