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Sugar House Journal

Girls Soccer Launches into Season with High Hopes

Aug 29, 2016 15h22 ● By Travis Barton

The Highland High girls soccer team defeated Cottonwood High 6-0 on Aug. 11. The Rams return 10 starters from a year ago. –Travis Barton

After ending the 2015 season with a 5-9-2 record, expectations might not be too high entering the 2016 season.
That is not the case with the Highland High School girls soccer team.
The team returns 10 starters and won three of their four non-region games before starting their region schedule against Ogden on Aug. 23. Their first two games were won by a combined score of 13-1. But head coach Brad Kooyman said he wasn’t satisfied and had high hopes as the season gets underway.
“I have really high expectations because we have a lot of talent and we should be really good. I’m pleased with what we did, but I know we can do better,” Kooyman said after the team defeated Cottonwood High 6-0 on Aug. 11.
What is expected to help the team in their pursuit of success is the solid spine they’ve established up the middle of the field.
“Our strength is the middle, we want to own the middle of the field,” Kooyman said.
One of the catalysts to controlling the midfield will be the calm influence of team captain Annie Nielson.
Nielson, a senior midfielder, said she feels they’re solid from defense to attack but it’s the team camaraderie that plays a big role in the team’s cohesion.
“On and off the field we hang out and we form those bonds so that on the field we’re comfortable with each other,” Nielson said.
Kayla Greer, senior defender and co-captain, said it’s an advantage returning 10 starters—five of whom play together on their club team—because it makes the team’s adjustment period shorter.
“We all kinda know how everyone plays already so we’re already meshed which makes it easier,” Greer said.
Greer, along with senior forward Emma Thornton, are the only two players to have played every varsity game since arriving as freshmen.
“It’s weird going from being the youngest on the team to being the leader of the team,” Greer said.
Despite some convincing wins to begin the season, Kooyman said the team needs to improve in what should be a competitive region schedule.
“Although I’m happy with where we are, I know how tough our region is. So I want them to be a little sharper, a little more precise,” Kooyman said. “But it’s early, so it’s that balance, you want to push them hard so when we get to the tough part of the season we’ll be ready.”
An improvement Kooyman is looking for starts in front of goal. Against Cottonwood on Aug. 11, the Rams had 40 chances on goal and converted six of them into goals. Kooyman said when they play top competition, they’ll need to have a high percentage of finishes.
“We might only get six or eight chances…so that percentage has to come up and if we do that we’ll be okay,” Kooyman said.
Highland has never won a region title in girls soccer, but Kooyman said with the team’s talent, they have the potential to make history.
“For me I think that’s a real possibility [and] I challenged the girls to get there,” Kooyman said.
Nielson said it’s a difficult region, but that’s their goal.
“We’re just looking to push ourselves to the max and see where that takes us,” Nielson said. “It won’t be a breeze but [a region title] is what we’re working towards.”
Nielson was named the head captain over the summer and said it was a really cool feeling.
“It’s been my high school dream—ever since I knew you could have high school captains—so it was a dream come true,” Nielson said.
Kooyman said the team’s talent extends to the classroom as well. The team recently received a national academic award for having a 3.8 grade point average in 2015.
“Not only do we have high quality soccer players, we have high quality kids,” Kooyman said. “Good citizens, good students and good athletes; what more can you ask for as a coach?”