It’s the early stages of summer vacation where many high school students are out there enjoying the warm weather. But for some, these months mean work and building for the future.
That’s what Emerald Ridge girls soccer program is going through as the Jaguars try to harness and carry over last year’s strong finish.
“We went with a young group last season with only two seniors who gave us significant minutes,” Emerald Ridge coach Dan Stueckle said. “But the end of the season they put together good soccer and got a taste of the playoffs, which has stuck with them.”
The Jaguars finished with a record of 8-6-2 after losing to Todd Beamer, 2-1 on Nov. 4, in the Class 4A South Puget Sound League tournament. It was the common, inexperience-in-the-moment that cost Emerald Ridge in that final game.
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“It was the little parts of the game that often cost us,” Stueckle said. “If you lob a pass out in front and your teammate doesn’t get there, you can’t shy away from going after that same play. Next lob, she can get there and make a play.
“These girls understand that now, and are motivated to make those adjustments.”
At last week’s practice, it was the time for the younger girls on the team to become acquainted with each other and what it means to be a Jaguar. This is the time for next year’s crop of freshman and sophomores.
It’s odd that Emerald Ridge girls soccer has taken an opposite approach with these early summer camps. Often it is those players who can’t wait to restart the season with the hopes of continuing last season’s late success.
At this camp it’s the young girls here trying to make a name for themselves and pinpoint the eyes of the coaches that they, too, can be a factor to next season’s hopeful success.
“This is really just a chance for them to get themselves noticed and see where they need to work,” assistant coach Steve Aguilar said. “It’s good for us to see who we’ll have for the future … the future looks really good.”
Emerald Ridge’s future is fall sophomores Karlee Stueckle, Robyn Raymond and freshmen Katie Matthews, Daniela Quiroz and Lauren Chenoweth — Jaguars ready to make that next jump and continue to push the program forward.
“Last year’s team pushed this program forward,” Dan Stueckle said. “They created more in what they should expect in themselves as a team … these young girls are coming in here with that understanding.”
Yet there’s caution with Emerald Ridge’s approach with these young girls: No rushing.
“We won’t rush them into playing significant minutes,” Stueckle said. “Last year’s situation happened because we were forced into that situation … I don’t want to put too much on them too early.”
That knowledge is matched with a desire to maintain. That’s the crux Stueckle sees in any high school soccer program: Can a team sustain success despite a lack of history to back it up?
“You lose players every year in high school,” the coach said. “Success in any program — it doesn’t matter what sport it is at the school — creates excitement for the school. People see that … they want to be a part of that success and keep it going.”