Success has been a delightful constant for the Wood River High School girls' soccer program since it began in 1993. And first-year head coach Jenni Conrad hopes to build upon that in 2009.
Former Green Mountain College soccer star Conrad is taking a talented 20-player Wood River varsity on the road for its first three games of the 15-game season, starting today, Friday at Skyview in Nampa and next Saturday at Century.
Both non-conference games will be challenging, but Conrad and assistant coach Kelley Sinnott are ready and willing to take the Wolverines to great heights. Sinnott was a senior on Wood River's 17-0-2 State 3A championship team in 2000, one of two state titles for Hailey (205-53-24 in 16 seasons).
Conrad, the fourth coach in Wolverine annals, said, "We have a talented, highly motivated and enthusiastic group of girls this year. Their fitness level has truly impressed me. Our team dynamics are strong and should get stronger with the help of our two captains, Ashley Hesteness and Kelly Chapman. That's the key to having a successful team."
Hesteness, Chapman and Maddie-Kate Currie are the only returning seniors on a young varsity with six juniors, 10 sophomores and one freshman. Despite their youth, many played roles on last fall's record-setting 18-2-1 team that won its fifth straight league title and earned the State 4A consolation title a second straight year.
Junior Tanner Dredge, for example, has already scored 53 career goals in her two varsity seasons. She had a team-leading 39 of Wood River's record-high 131 goals last fall and seems likely to exceed Kristi Toussaint's school-record 85 career goals before she's done.
And Dredge is only part of Wood River's dangerous attack that should dazzle opponents with speed and relentless shots.
Other returning juniors are Ellen Davis, Taylor Hayes and goalkeeper Madison Gove. Wood River's defense (12 shutouts in 21 games) allowed only 12 goals last fall with Gove standing guard at the net.
Joining an already potent sophomore attack is last year's Community School leading scorer Teagen Palmer. Other sophomores are Kaitana Martinez (9 goals), Megan Morrell (7 goals), Ali Appleton (3 goals), Sloan Storey and goalkeeper Cheyenne Swanson.
Six players have moved up to varsity from coach Doug Stouffer's junior varsity that went 11-2-1 with a 59-5 goals-against (10 shutouts) in 2008. They include leading scorer Shaylee Foley (12 goals), a junior, and Most Valuable Player Maddie Bates, a sophomore.
Others up from JV are junior Hunter Thompson along with sophomores Erin Murphy, Nicole Roos and Lucy Paisley. The only freshman on varsity is Maggie Williams.
The current team knows it has a tough act to follow, with the departure of not only five-year coach Greg Gvozdas (79-16-6) but also a group of seniors like Aimee Evans, Sam Johnson, Delaney Fox, Makayla Cappel and Laura Elgee. They know they'll have to step up on defense to replace this group.
High expectations are good, too. After all, Wood River has made 14 consecutive state tournament trips and will be trying for state again in a new six-team conference—with Burley, Minico of Rupert, Jerome, Twin Falls and new school Canyon Ridge of Twin Falls. The league gets two automatic state berths to start play in Caldwell on Thursday, Oct. 22.