Hopes high on the pitch
The Eagle River and Chugiak High boys and girls soccer squads open the 2014 season with games at the Anchorage Dome this weekend.
Chugiak High takes on Dimond Saturday, with the girls up first at 4:40 p.m., followed by the boys at 6:30 p.m.
Eagle River boys and girls face West on March 26 at 4:40 and 6:30 p.m., respectively.
All four teams opened their practice schedule during spring break with several athletes missing due to family vacations. Most coaches are holding varsity slots available for late-arriving participants.
Returning coach Paul Brehmer of Chugiak said the Mustang girls team is looking to make a state bid after finishing a half-game out of a tourney invite last season.
Sporting a 9-3-4 (win-loss-tie) record, the team was one win away from traveling to state.
“All the returning players will need to push themselves this year to make up for the seniors that graduated last year,” Brehmer said.
Last year’s graduates included Grace Ogden, Sierra Humphrey, Tori Fishburn and Jessi Beverlin.
The coach tabbed his daughter Holly Brehmer, Molly Romero and Tristyn Hall as top returnees, with Brehmer a first-team selection last year and the other two on the honorable mention roster.
All three were among Mustang leading scorers last season.
Coach Brehmer also handed out early season commendations to defender Janissa Arzie and goalie Alexis Trombley.
With 35 Chugiak girls practicing over spring break, the coach anticipates carrying 17 players on varsity. Depending on the influx of additional players, he said the team could field squads at all three levels – varsity, JV and C team.
“We have some players coming back from injuries and how well they do will be a factor, but I think we’ll be very competitive,” Brehmer said.
Chugiak’s returning boys coach Matt Miller said the team is looking to improve on last year’s seventh-place showing in the Cook Inlet Conference.
Miller said things are already looking up with 45 athletes showing up for the first week, and more expected after the break.
Top returnees include senior Brady Sanders (center midfielder), sophomore Daniel Ogden (center defense) and senior goalkeeper Brian Sorensen.
Miller said the team is also blessed with a pair for foreign exchange students looking to make contributions, namely, Diego Velez, of Ecuador and Juan Zapata, from Spain.
The team includes five seniors, with three carrying previous varsity experience.
“I think the team chemistry is better this year,” he said.
Eagle River girls
The Eagle River Wolves soccer teams return with Eric Dearborn at the helm of the boys varsity for a seventh season, and second-year varsity girls coach Trent Boggs.
Boggs, who has coached club soccer teams for several years, said the Wolves currently sport 22 on the roster; nearly half of those are incoming freshmen.
With the light numbers, the coach said the jury is still out as to whether the school will be able to field both varsity and JV squads.
Top returners include first-team All-CIC selection Tara Fisher at goalie; midfielder Nikki Boggs, a second-team midfielder; and defenders, Sam Coy, Mykela Carroll and Clair Bottini; all juniors, with Coy the lone senior in the mix.
“We have a lot better athleticism than last year,” said Boggs. “We should start out the season more comfortably than last.”
Eagle River boys
Boys coach Eric Dearborn said his varsity team is looking to continue building on merits of last year.
With 30 athletes out so far, the coach is looking to split ranks down the middle with the possibility of swinging a few players either direction.
“The rule is that they just can’t play in two games on any one day,” he explained.
The varsity team returns half the players from last year’ roster, with six graduating, the others lost by military transfers.
“I see all 15 players getting significant time in games,” Dearborn said.
Like the girls team, the Wolves boys are junior heavy, with the coach noting Chris Jensen, Ryan Suckow and Danny Prior, along with senior Jordan Scott, as those to watch as the team enters the early season.
Suckow was the team’s lone conference selection last year, as first-team fullback.
Jensen returns to protecting the Wolves’ goal line after breaking his ankle in the second game of the season last year.
“Overall, our physical conditioning is a little better than it was last year,” said the coach.
Dearborn said the team is fortunate to have the services of Cuban National Team captain Yeniel Bermudez as an assistant coach. Along with JV coach Steve Johnson, the varsity head coach hinted that the overall depth of instruction is the best it’s been at the school in that sport.
The coach said energy has been building since the program hosted a daylong skills camp for youngsters, ages 7-12, on March 7.
“I think the guys are really excited to go this season,” he said.