There were some growing pains for the Peninsula High School girls soccer team under first-year coach Jenny Buys last season.
In the first eight games of the season, the Seahawks gave up 35 goals to opponents.
But with a new conditioning program and emphasis on fitness, things got turned in the right direction. In the final eight games of the season, the Seahawks gave up 18 goals to opponents. It wasn’t necessarily enough to proclaim Peninsula’s back line was any kind of “great wall,” but significant progress, nonetheless.
This season, the progress appears to be continuing. Through four games this season, Peninsula has given up three goals, posting a 2-1-1 record.
“We have a lot more scorers this year — people up front that can really put in goals,” said senior defender and captain Betsy Brunkow. “I feel like we’re really confident. For me, it’s a lot more positive than last year. The fact that we’re all kind of new, we’re going to work really hard this year and come at it with 100 percent. Our confidence goes way up. We’re ready to work hard.”
Buys has been impressed with the way her team has come out of the starting gate.
“I think it’s been a really good start,” she said. “We have a lot to grow from. It’s not the same team we had last year. Part of that change has to happen in some hearts. And then moving forward, just knowing that you’re confident and prepared and trusting your teammates. We’re still figuring that stuff out. When that comes together, we’ll be dangerous.”
The scoring has been balanced for Peninsula. Senior Grace Lewis and sophomore Ashleigh Bernhard lead the team with four goals apiece, while sophomore Madison Grande has scored three.
“We really are a cohesive unit,” Buys said. “We have 15 really solid players that can take care of some business.”
Getting them all on the same page, working together, has been the biggest challenge for Buys and the area in which the team has shown the most growth.
“The hardest part about (a) high-schooler is you have your premiere players, your select players, your rec players and your players who are just great athletes,” Buys said. “Trying to figure out how to make every one of them perform at their best is the key to creating an amazing team. I think that key is starting to take place with these girls. They understand that the premiere player can’t do it all. One doesn’t beat 11. How do you elevate those other girls? How the girls who just play because they love it, how they teach you how to be less serious about things that really don’t matter at the end of the day. That’s something that’s really changing the hearts and minds on my players.”
It starts with the defense. Brunkow and the back line — better conditioned than a season ago — are feeling confident.
“Our defense is like 10 times stronger than it was last year,” Brunkow said. “The flow and the way we communicate and move is really strong. There are a lot better relationships. We work really well as a team. We’re building a stronger foundation relationship-wise, which helps us on the field.”