Van Buren, Alma return experienced teams for girls soccer season
Van Buren and Alma barely had more than six games done before the whole world was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alma had a loaded team, and Van Buren was working to continue its build for the program.
This season, both teams will compete in the 5A West Conference, and the coaches said it should be a very competitive league this season.
Van Buren returns 13 players with varsity experience.
"We are excited to be joining the 5A West Conference this year. Looking at the teams in our conference, it's solid from top to bottom," first-year coach Brian Dodson said. "Our girls have been working extremely hard since the end of summer, and we can't wait to see how we perform together on the field."
Alma returns seven starters on a team that graduated three four-year lettermen last season. Alma also has 13 returners and will be joined by 10 newcomers, some of whom will immediately impact their team.
"The girls team last year had nothing but the state tournament on their mind before everything got shut down," coach Cory Sturdivant said. "This freshman group brings a great attitude. I'm looking forward to seeing this group grow together and learn to compete during the season."
Players to watch
Carlie Nguyen, SR, defender: Nguyen is a team captain and two-year starter. Dodson: "Carlie has experience playing all levels on the field and could also see time as a keeper in emergencies. Carlie has a great work ethic and is a fierce competitor."
Keila Ramirez, SR, midfield: Ramirez shares captain duties with Nguyen and is also a two-year starter. Dodson: "She brings a strong and consistent presence to our midfield. Keila is a leader on the field and makes others around her better."
Presli Taylor, SO, forward: She played all seven games last season and made an immediate impact. Sturdivant: "Her relentless pressure on the opposing team's defense created numerous scoring opportunities. This year, Presli will take over the offense as our primary scoring threat for the Lady Airedales."
Olivia Reed, SO, defender: The coach has seen her confidence grow during practices this season. Sturdivant: "As a seventh grader, she had a passion for soccer, and I couldn't wait to have her on the team. She commands the back on defense. Her skill with the ball and ability to read the game was easily visible in our shortened 2020 season."