It feels like every new season, you can start off a girls' soccer preview of the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division the exact same way —tighten upyour cleats and adjust your shin guards, ladies and gentlemen, it's going to be a wild ride.
The non-league portion of the eight teams that make up the Bay is coming to a close and the real deal begins next week with Carlmont High School as your reigning division champions. And as of right now, with a record of 4-1-1, it looks like the Scots aren't about to let anyone come and take the crown from them.
"They have this attitude about them,” said Carlmont coach Tina Doss said of her players. "Everyone has to out-play us to win because we're good. I love it. You have to be able to walk on the field knowing you're a solid team and having confidence in each other.
"[This year] it's more of an expectation because it's pretty much the same team, give-or-take two of three girls. So, the girls who are returning are like, ‘OK, we're top dogs. Everyone else has to take us out, right?' We're in a different position this year.”
The Scots will field a veteran team this season with only five players lost to graduation. And even with a slew of injuries (Doss counted seven of them), the Scots are playing like a complete and balanced team so far.
"They know we don't have any weaknesses but we also know that we don't have any superstars so they have to play for each other,” Doss said.
The Scots took a hit with the loss of centerback Lauren Konrad to an ACL injury, but they return PAL All-League players in Amelia Jacobs and Mary Cochran. The return of Melissa Wood, who missed last season with a hand injury, is huge for the Scots, Doss said. Maritza Gomez, when she comes back healthy, will anchor the back line. And the rest of Scots Nation is anxiously awaiting thumbs up or thumbs down news on Soha Said, the sophomore striker who came up huge for Carlmont last season but might need surgery that will knock her for out for while.
Doss knows the task of repeating won't be easy. And right now, she's got her mind set on one team: Woodside.
"I think Woodside will be the team to beat this year,” Doss said. "I really do.”
And Jose Navarette, Wildcat head coach, can't help but be excited about his team's prospects given their 5-0-1 start to the year.
"We're a young team, but at the same time we're an experienced team,” he said. "We're scoring goals which always brings a smile to my face because last year it was really tough to get goals.”
The Wildcats aren't just winning games — they're flat our dominating them. So far in six contests, Woodside has outscored opponents 22-1. A year after going the entire season with only one players with three or more goals, the Wildcats, six games in, already have five.
"I wasn't expecting that we'd be finding the net as consistently as we are, but I'm not going to complain about it,” Navarette said. "But more than win games, it's really pleasing to see them move the ball and see them play at the level that they're capable of playing.”
And they're capable of a lot, given the talent. Keep in mind as well, the Wildcats only have two seniors on the 2013 roster — which makes them even scarier if you think ahead to 2014.
One of those is reigning All-Daily Journal winger Randall Stafford, who gives the Wildcats tremendous width. Up front, Navarette is playing with three forwards, with Lauren Holland tallying six goals thus far and 16 total points. She's getting offensive help from the likes of Heather Seybert, Madison Holland, Mackenzie Person and Erika Negrete. On defense, Gianna Rosati is the finest centerback in the league.
"She's a great leader back there and just seems to be in total command,” Navarette said. "I think we're where we should be. We just want to keep working hard.”
Work hard they must because, while the Scots are the reigning champions, the Bay Division, now more than ever, is known for its parity.
Aragon is a reigning CCS co-champion following an inspired effort against Archbishop Mitty. But new head coach Nick Dye faces the task of replacing two-time CCS-winning coach Will Colglazier and doing so after graduating a ton of talent — including the 2012 Daily Journal Girls' Soccer Player of the Year in Rachel Killigrew and almost the entire Aragon defense that was capable of dominating games.
The Dons have struggled thus far, albeit against talented CCS-caliber teams in Los Altos (2-0 loss), St. Ignatius (4-0 loss) and Los Gatos (5-2 loss).
Burlingame sits at 3-2-1 and is hoping to cash in on a little better karma. After struggling terribly with injuries last season, the odds suggest that the Panthers will be healthier in 2013. They have the benefit of the league's best midfielder in Lena Mendelson. Rachel Byrd will have to step up for the Panthers and in the back, Greer Chrisman has proven to be solid. Burlingame also welcomes All-League Ocean Division First Team member Aleja Cretcher, who transferred from Ocean champ Hillsdale High School and will give the Panthers great speed and width.
Speaking of the Knights, on top of losing Cretcher, the non-league portion of the schedule has proven tough. Hillsdale sits at 0-4-1.
But, they aren't without talented players. Kayla Coleman returns after a breakthrough sophomore season. Lexie Gordon is the reigning Ocean Defender of the Year — she's on the 2013 roster along with second teamer Jennifer Eberle. The Knights appeared to have gone even younger in 2013 — half their roster is made up of under classmen.
Speaking of youth, San Mateo played with its fair share of underclassmen last year. Carlos Bover, who takes over for Daire O'Connor, still lists players like Brenda Flores, Kelly Ghiorso, Katie Wischer and Tarryn O'Mahoney on his roster — all of them played a role in the Bearcats staying competitive last year despite struggling to get the ball into the goal.
A team that had no problems scoring last year was Menlo-Atherton. And that will be its biggest task this season — how do you replace 86 points with the departure of Jennifer Kirst and Meryssa Thompson?
Well, you turn to the likes of Cassie Stansberry and Elizabeth Cruz, who have carried the Bears to a 2-2-2 mark in non-league. Dana Gorick is scoring goals for M-A as well.
The pressure will be heavier on returning All-League goal keeper Caitlyn Lanigan — the best goalkeeper outside of Aragon's Ashley Lentz last season.
The darkhorse in all of this might be Terra Nova. The Tigers are off to a 4-1-0 start, outscoring their opponents almost 2 to 1 in the process.
"There is no weak team in our league anymore,” Doss said. "There really isn't.”
"I tell my team, three points from Carlmont are as valuable as three points from any other teams,” Navarette said. "These teams are really tough. I think that's why we do well in CCS — we play in such a tough league, then when we do get to CCS we're well prepared because we come from a talented league.”