By Ray Hamill — The College of the Redwoods women’ soccer team kicked off a new era for the program this week, while two local stars made their collegiate debuts.
Intentionally facing a challenging early-season schedule, the Corsairs traveled to San Bruno on Tuesday and fell 7-0 to Skyline College in new head coach Taylor McMillin’s first game in charge.
Despite the loss, McMillin saw plenty she liked and felt the road trip was a good bonding experience for her players.
“When we scheduled these preseason games we knew these games would be a challenge,” she said. “Today was a great opportunity for us to get out on the field and work on scenarios that you can’t necessarily replicate in a training session.
“Overall, today and the trip to San Bruno was a positive experience that will benefit us for our conference games.”
McMillin has a roster of 15 and is hoping to add one more player, which is a good sized squad for a team that has struggled with numbers in recent years.
And that includes former Fortuna standout Malia Bolden and talented Arcata athlete Alia Prentiss, who graduated high school a year early.
Both are expected to play big leadership roles on the the team at either end of the field, with Bolden anchoring the defense and Prentiss leading the attack.
“Malia Bolden was communicating the whole time,” the coach said. “Her leadership really stood out, which was wonderful.”
In addition to Prentiss and Bolden, the new coach will rely heavily on three returning sophomores, Maggie Stacy, Emily Orozco and Gabriella Riley.
Both Stacy, a Fortuna graduate who also has competed in cross country and track and field for the Corsairs, and Riley, a Ferndale graduate, will play alongside Prentiss in attack, while Orozco (Jerome, Idaho) will help out in defense.
Among the newcomers, St. Bernard’s graduate Jessica Rutter, who will play midfield and in defense, is already making her presence felt and is quickly establishing herself as a key team leader.
Goalkeeper Alondra Ortiz, a freshman from Kelseyville, also has made an immediate impact and impressed her coach on Tuesday despite the lopsided score.
“(Ortiz) had a standout performance in the goal with some great saves,” McMillin said.
South Forks’ Aria Mahony, Eureka’s Valeria Ruiz- Suvia, Arcata’s Sophia Pulley and Caitlin Wheetley and McKinleyville’s Lauren Guynup and Colette Lambert also feature on this year’s team, along with River Walkington (Canyon Lake), Madison Servideo (Chilcoot).
McKinleyville’s Yaretzi Salona is redshirting with the team this fall.
“I am excited for the program and working with a group of young student-athletes who are helping to set the expectations of this program,” McMillin said.
The new coach, who played at Eureka, CR and Cal Poly Humboldt (then Humboldt State), also coaches with local travel team Sequoia FC.
And one of her goals at CR is to ensure her players enjoy the college experience as much as possible.
“This year, I’m really focused on the making it a good student-athlete experience because it’s a special time in their life, and ultimately pushing them on the soccer field and pushing them in the classroom,” she said.
The Corsairs will have some time to work on the practice field before their next game, which is at Foothill College on Sept. 8.