<strong>HYRUM—</strong> For the Mountain Crest girl’s soccer team, this season is region title or bust.
After losing just three players from last year’s third place team, MC head coach Dennis Giles is optimistic about the Mustangs’ chances.
“We have the same team back,” Giles said. “We should do better than last year. I’m looking for first place in region. It’s going to be a win-win situation. We’re going for it, that’s what they want. If they keep hustling and go at it, we’ll be just fine.”
And while the Mustangs will be without their leading scorer from last season in Kasandra Anderson, Giles said there are a number of players that he expects to step up and fill that role.
Senior Karlee Campbell has been moved to the front line, and should add another scoring threat to the Mustangs offense. Campbell finished tied for third on the team in goals scored despite being a primary defender.
The two players Campbell finished tied with, Analee Davidson and and Karlie Kohler, will also be back in the midfield for the Mustangs, and Giles said the team has focused its evening practices on finishing in the attacking third.
“Our midfielders are right there, and these kids are capable of shooting,” Giles said. “I need to teach these kids that when it’s time to shoot, to not goof around and put the ball in the net. Our wings have come a long ways too. I expect a lot out of them.”
Annie Nalder, the team’s second leading scorer a year ago, will also be back in the lineup, and Nalder said she is eager to step up and show leadership.
“Kasandra was a good leader, but our seniors have stepped up,” Nalder said. “She was a good player, but we’ll be all right this year too. We have some good wings, and the team has been working hard in conditioning and should be prepared for the season.”
Giles said that along with the returning team members, he is encouraged by the freshman class that will give the Mustangs a deeper bench then they had last season.
“There’s a couple kids in our freshman ranks that could see some time,” Giles said. “We have a really good sophomore class, and it’s not because our older kids, our juniors, are slouches. Our strength should be in our sophomores and juniors. We’ve got some pretty good players out here.”
On the defensive side, goalkeeper Courtney Funk is back for her senior year after recording eight shutouts in nine wins last season. Giles said Funk has improved significantly, and that all four goalkeepers on the roster have shown promise.
Goalkeeper coach Mike Seiler has spent a good amount of time with each of the players, and Giles said Kylie McGee is “right on Courtney’s heels.”
“Right now it’s Funk,” Giles said. “But I think Kylie will see some playing time. She’s played hockey to improve her speed, and she’s working hard. She’s putting the time in. We’ll just have to play it out and see how these first six games go.”
Funk said communication with the backline will be key to keeping the ball out of the net on defense, along with a positive attitude on the field.
Two team members will look to make an impact after moving into Mountain Crest boundaries, including former Sky View Bobcat Randi Davis. Sky View and Mountain Crest split the season series last year, and Funk said she’s anxious for that game because of the “rivalry factor.”
Practice for the season has been underway since the end of July, and Mountain Crest will play its first game Friday against Park City in Hyrum at 10 a.m. Last season, the Mustangs dismantled the Miners 3-0 at home in the first game of the season, but Giles said he isn’t sure what to expect this time around.
“I don’t know about Park City,” Giles said. “We beat them last season, but they always come out and play well. So I don’t know what they’re going to be like.”