Girls soccer adjusts to departure of key seniors



JUMP ON IT: Annabel Heisel ’19, Bridget Stokdyk ’18 and two of their teammates jump in celebration after a goal. The team beat Hart 2-0 on Friday – their sixth win so far. The team plays Chaminade Jan 12. Photo Credit: Pavan Tauh/Chronicle

Lucas Gelfond

Fueled by a balanced offense focused on speed and possession—a drastic shift in gameplay from last season— the girls’ soccer team is off to a strong 6-2-1 record as of press time.
The squad only lost a few seniors last year, but that group included starting goalkeeper Lindsay Avant ’17 and leading scorer Paige Howard ’17. The team relied on Howard for most of the goals, players said.

The season started with various winter tournaments.

The team participated in the O.C. Winter Showcase (in which the team went 3-1) and the Aliso Cup (in which the team went 1-1-1). Head Coach Richard Simms said that he uses tournaments that are like these at the beginning of the season.

Simms said that he likes the early part of the season to figure out what does and does not work for the team.

“That’s what [the early] part of the season is for, [to] see possession play, Simms said.

Simms said that the team’s strategy last year relied on getting the ball to Howard and counting on her to make most of the goals in game because of her strong shooting skills and as such focused less on posession.

“This year we’re a lot more patient in possession,” Simms said. “We’re not just trying to get it into the center forward. We’re trying to work the ball around a little bit more. We’re a little more dynamic offensively.”

With these departures, the team has gaps that allow for new leaders to step up and take on larger roles.

In addition to mentioning current seniors Bridget Stokdyk ’18 and Ariana Miles ’18 as leaders, Simms highlighted Nikki Smith ’19 as an important player for the team. She tore her ACL as a freshman and spent last year recovering, but is finally healthy this year.

“She’s a really exciting player to watch,” Simms said. “She’s really fun to coach, and super creative and technical.”

So far Smith has one assist in season.Players said that the group’s closeness is a key factor in their strong season and early victories.

“We’re just very close friends,” captain Denise Shkurovich ’18 said. “There’s just not a lot of divisions in the team. We’re just one group, which is really cool to see. Knowing that you have friends behind you helps you to be more confident on the field.”