HOUGHTON LAKE — Opposing coaches aren’t buying the “rebuilding” story coming out of the Houghton Lake girls soccer program, even though the Lakers are definitely going to be young this year.
The reason why other coaches aren’t dismissing the Lakers as a legitimate threat to walk away with the Northern Michigan Soccer League title is because most of the girls played together in the summer on travel team and thus have more experience than their age levels would imply.
But among the 26 girls on the varsity roster are a large group of freshmen and sophomores who are as yet unacquainted with high school competition, and will need time to adapt to the speed of the game regardless of their work over the summer.
“We’ll be young, but the kids coming up have all played before and played a lot so that will help out,” Bobcats’ head coach Darren Barnes admitted. “I have some good senior leaders coming back so I think we’ll still be competitive.”
Among those returning seniors Barnes will be leaning on are three-year starter Tori Maikrzek, fourth-year player Skylar Paige who’ll be a starter this season. Both are expected to be leaders on the field, helping those younger players come along.
Returning junior starters are Courtney Ignat and Madison Forman.
“It’s nice to have five or six starters coming back,” Barnes said. “With so many new kids coming in, the big part will be determining where they fit in and where they go and how do they adjust to varsity level soccer.
“That will be what the first game will be about getting our kids in and finding what positions they should play, and where they’re going to be successful. The first couple games will be like a chess match for me of finding out who I should put where and when.
“I’m not sure where we’re going to get our scoring from. That’s one of the things we’ll be working on the first couple of weeks. I get most of my defense back, so that’s I think set.
“We’ll have to maybe look to some of the freshmen, and maybe some of the juniors and obviously seniors to step into that role.”
Barnes felt that the Bobcats relied on Gil Carroll (20 goals) too much at times last year, and he’d like to see a more balanced offensive attack.