Coming off a successful 2008 season, The Community School girls' soccer program is looking forward to another competitive fall campaign that should be filled with progress in skills and teamwork—and hopefully another state tournament trip.
Eight-year Cutthroat coach Kelly Feldman and assistant coach Carolina Stevens have welcomed 22 players to pre-season drills. The 17-game Cutthroat season opens Saturday, Aug. 22 with a game at Twin Falls. There will be no junior varsity program this fall.
"We've got good speed and good leadership from our seniors," said Feldman, who has five seniors, five juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen on the 16-player travel team. "We definitely have new faces, but most have been playing soccer all along."
One big loss was last year's top scorer Teagen Palmer (25 goals), who migrated to Wood River. But last fall's Cutthroats (12-8-1, 10-1-1 league, 9 shutouts) did have 13 different scorers making up their 75 goals, so the girls know how to score.
The return of attacking midfielder Erica "Ricki" Eshman should help compensate for the loss of Palmer. Eshman spent last fall studying in Argentina, but she was a force as a sophomore when Feldman's dominant squad of 2007 went 17-3-0 with a 104-9 goals against.
Eshman is a senior co-captain along with a solid contributor, senior co-captain Kerry Lee Nelson. Other Cutthroat seniors include Kayla Cloud, who is a solid cog in the middle of the defense, along with Nellie Brown and Madison Murach.
Murach and Brown will provide some of the Sun Valley attack. So will junior Emma Wilander (second-best 12 goals last fall), target junior forward Freya Dickey and freshman Ellie Swanson. Sophomore Hailey Rheinschild (7 goals) is a fast, aggressive runner on the left flank who is bound to cause match-up problems for other teams on the schedule.
One very important Cutthroat player will be junior Kelly Hennessy, a take-charge type who excels at distributing the ball and serving it.
Sophomore starting goalkeeper Josie Bunce is a year older and wiser and should be a pillar of strength in the back. Junior Chelsea Cloud will also play in goal. The Cutthroat defense will have a hard time replacing the speedy Marin Shepardson, but junior Daniela Stokes, Kayla Cloud and freshman Frannie Sensenbrenner are willing and able to give it a go.
Other freshmen are Taylor Figge and Ella Marks. Practice players are sophomore Reta Flynt plus freshmen Maddie Caraluzzi, Tee Pidgeon, Paige Reidinger, Spenser Thomas and Hannah Robideaux.
Coaches Feldman and Stevens are always a bit mystified at this time of year about how the younger players will adapt and contribute. There are nine freshmen. Some will take to the game of soccer and improve. "We're so year-to-year with our incoming freshmen. How we do will depend on how everyone comes together during the season," Feldman said.
In securing the school's eighth straight State 3A tournament berth last fall, the Cutthroats improved quite a bit—winning 10 of their final 11 games by a 55-6 margin prior to a 4-3 loss to Buhl in the championship game of the seven-team High Desert Soccer Conference tournament.
Conference champion Buhl (14-3-1) and the Cutthroats both went two-and-out in the State 3A tournament, won for the first time by Fruitland (10-3-2) by a 3-0 score over Shelley. Feldman's squad dropped two 1-0 games at state to Shelley and Teton.
This year, the High Desert Soccer Conference will once again get two automatic state tournament berths. On a rotation basis, the south-central Idaho league was due to get only 1.5 state berths, which would have put the league runner-up in the tough position of having to win a playoff game in Pocatello to make state.
However, the Idaho High School Activities Association during its Aug. 5 meeting in Boise changed the playoff structure because of a Boise-area co-op arrangement that merged schools and reduced the size of the Third District league. So, half-berths for the state tourney were restored for northern Idaho and the south-central Idaho Fourth District.