Ponderosa senior Maddie Gabel embraces the challenge of being a leader at soccer while Lutheran coach Jim Pereira is hoping to watch senior leadership finally surface later this season on his soccer team.
Both Ponderosa and Lutheran have been playing with several freshmen on the varsity.
“We have seven or eight freshman up for varsity and one sophomore so we're a pretty young team,” noted Gabel after the Mustangs' 10-0 victory over the Lions on March 27 at Lutheran. “So they kind of look to our senior leadership. We have five seniors who have been here for at least three years on varsity so that's good leadership to have.
“It's definitely a good feeling to be a leader and something I've been working for all high school to be a captain. It feels good that coach has placed some leadership on me and three other seniors on the team that are captains.”
Pereira is in his first year as the Lions' girls soccer coach and hopes to have seniors Madi Mooney and Morgan Walker, both recovering from surgeries and injuries, cleared to play soon. Last season's top scorer Abigail Justice is out for the season after suffering an ACL injury in basketball.
“That's a lot of talent we are missing and we are forcing freshmen into kind of having to figure it out,” said Pereira. “I know we will and know we have great things ahead of us. So we have a lot of youth on the field. It's good for the future but there's growing pains with that.”
Ponderosa, a Class 4A school, took a 3-0 record into its Continental League opener against Chaparral on March 28 but lost 1-0. The Mustangs played Highlands Ranch March 30 and finished a busy week with a non-league game April 1 against SkyView Academy.
“We going to play some teams a little stronger so we will see how we can do,” said Pondo coach Jim Engels. “We're going to surprise people. We do have a lot better team. Last year we couldn't score. We have some girls that can score this year and this team has a lot of speed.”
Lutheran, a Class 3A school, saw its record fall to 2-3 after the loss to Ponderosa but the Lions have played three 5A teams and two 4A teams. The Lions open 3A Region 6 play on April 4 and the top three teams in the CHSAANow.com 3A poll are members of the 3A Region 6 League.
The Ratings Percentage Index used to qualify teams for post-season plays often forces schools to adjust non-league schedules, since the RPI is based largely on strength of schedules.
“We're playing bigger schools trying to prepare for our league because our league is really, really good,” added Pereira. “We have a young team but we beat two 5A schools that have 2,500 kids but then we've got beat 10-0 twice. So you get this wide range of starting consistency.
“We lose 10-0 but it doesn't affect us much from a standings standpoint. So from an RPI perspective it helps but I wish there was more of a balance. I don't want to schedule giant schools to get seeded better. When you are a school like us and go play Cherokee Trail, a school that is top five in 5A, there's almost a level to some degree of putting some kids at risk. A tiny freshman against some Division I kids. There's a medium somewhere in there that is healthy.”