The Emerald Ridge High girls soccer team might have the fastest attack in the 4A South Puget Sound League.
The Jaguars could have made that same claim last season when they went with state-level sprinters in juniors Mareonna Henderson and Karlee Stueckle, who led an attack which averaged 2.1 goals per game over the season including the playoffs.
Now Emerald Ridge, which entered the week with a 3-3 record, and coach Dan Stueckle, Karlee’s father, is shaking things up with the attack by changing from a two-strike attack to a three-winged attack system, using a traditional forward flanked by wings on the outside. No longer are Henderson and Karlee Stueckle on the attack alone; sophomore Katie Matthews has joined the two, making the Jaguars a potentially potent offense.
Will it work?
“It’s definitely a lot easier to work with, especially making runs up top since it allows us to be more communicative with each other,” captain Karlee Stueckle said. “Sometimes (last year) we would run on top of each other and not everyone would be on the same page.”
It’s definitely a lot easier to work with, especially making runs up top since it allows us to be more communicative with each other. Sometimes (last year) we would run on top of each other and not everyone would be on the same page.
Now it’s different for the ER attack.
“With three people, it’s easier because everyone knows what they’re doing,” Karlee added.
The Emerald Ridge attack can work by adding Matthews to both Stueckle and Henderson, but there’s still a valid question when it comes to the Jaguars trying to figure out. Can it work this year — especially having two-thirds of the trio slowed by injuries?
“When those three girls are healthy, it’s tough to hang with us,” Dan Stueckle said.
Emerald Ridge is averaging just 1.5 goals per game over its first six games. The early good news is that Emerald Ridge has yet to be shut out. The bad news is that health has led to the early scoring struggles as well as the team averaging almost half a goal less than last season.
Progress on the pitch is one issue to fix, but the health department, well that’s entirely another problem the Jaguars are hoping to find answers to soon. Henderson (ankle) has been banged up since Emerald Ridge’s 2-1 loss to Rogers on Sept. 15.
But health will be key as the Jaguars’ coach is in no rush to bring Henderson back; there isn’t a need to risk his losing forward for a longer stretch if she came back too soon.
“It’s tough because you want to be out there helping your team, but I get it,” Henderson said. “There’s still plenty of games left. Hopefully all I miss is the Curtis game (on Sept. 22).”
Karlee Stueckle has been banged up herself, but she has played through a minor leg injury she’s been dealing with all season.
“A few weeks ago, I kind of tweaked (my leg) a little bit, but I feel better since I took a few days off,” Karlee said.
Karlee Stueckle has been healthier recently, and last week the captain picked up Emerald Ridge’s lone goal as the Jags held on for a 1-0 win over Curtis at home.
It’s a better front because we have a midfield. We can play ball a little more, control the action.
“It’s a better front because we have a midfield,” Matthews said. “We can play ball a little more, control the action.”
The hope was to see how this new speedy trio would play and grow together this year, but things are still a work in progress.
“We’re still working on getting them in the mindset of shooting when they think they have an open shot on the goal,” said Dan Stueckle of his team’s early-season indecisiveness when on attack. “Sometimes it’s better for the team to take that shot instead of making an extra touch or passing it to a teammate. But we’re making progress.”
Instead, it has been a great showing from Matthews as she’s become acclimated her new role up front as a right wing in the Jaguars’ attack.
“I just target one of them with my through balls, because they can make the shots on goal,” Matthews said. “If all the defenders move back into the middle, I’ll just wait for our midfielders to move up. But if there’s a chance to cross it to (Henderson or Stueckle), I’ll get it to them.”
Even though she doesn’t have the top-end speed of her counterparts, Matthews is only a step behind Henderson and Stueckle when they are at full-strength. And that’s probably the best part about the potential of this attack — as Henderson and Stueckle fly by on the pitch, there will always be Matthews close behind.
By having (Katie Matthews) back behind us, we can pass it to her on the back end and keep the attack going. It helps prevent me or Karlee from getting caught offside.
“By having her back behind us, we can pass it to her on the back end and keep the attack going,” Henderson said. “It helps prevent me or Karlee from getting caught offside.”
If a healthy Emerald Ridge team has its way, this trio of speedsters should be tripping up defenders this year and next.
Emerald Ridge travels to Port Orchard on Tuesday (Sept. 27) to play South Kitsap (2-4) before closing the week hosting Sumner (3-3) on Thursday (Sept. 29) and Graham-Kapowsin (0-6) on Saturday (Oct. 1).