By Ray Hamill — With their largest roster in several years, there will be plenty of competition for places on this year South Fork girls soccer team.
Longtime head coach Ann Constantino has 18 players on this year’s squad, and like many local programs is seeing an increase in interest as we continue to come out of the COVID years, which took their toll on roster sizes in a lot of community sports.
And with a large sophomore class of 10, all of whom should be better equipped to handle the varsity level than they were as freshmen, the Cubs should be improved this fall.
Early in the season the head coach is still tinkering with her lineup, as the returning players and three freshmen get their feet wet.
“Right now, we’re still figuring out who’s going to fit in where, but I feel we’ve got good options all over the field,” she said. “And the competition for places will make everybody better.”
This year’s team features four seniors and one junior, each of whom is expected to play a big role and all of whom will be looked to for some much-needed leadership on a young roster.
Seniors Cloe McConnell, Caidence Young and Kalina Paine are the team captains and have been showing a lot of leadership, while fellow senior Angelina Apodaca and junior Raelyn Hawkins also bring some experience to the table.
And she’s raring to go.
“She loves the sport and really brings that enthusiasm to practice,” Constantino said of Paine.
All three captains have been setting the tone for their younger teammates.
“They’re just great leaders,” Constantino said of the captains. “They’ve been working on their leadership skills and it’s great to have them blossoming this year. They’re really taking (their younger teammates) under their wings.”
A few of the younger players are also making an early case for starting roles, including sophomore defensive midfielder Aubrey Young, who impressed off the bench in Tuesday’s season-opener against Mendocino after being thrown into a key role because of an injury.
“In a very demanding defensive role, Aubrey took over and did an amazing job,” Constantino said. “She was really our player of the game.”
Freshman Genesis Medrano, who is a rare South Fork travel team player, also has impressed her coach early in the season and looks set to be a key contributor for years.
“Even as a freshman she’s looking pretty polished,” the coach said.
Goalkeeper Aurora Galaz also has been working hard in preparation for the season and got the new campaign off to a good start with some big saves against Mendocino.
“She’s looking really sharp,” Constantino said of the sophomore shot stopper, who worked with a goalkeeper coach during the offseason.
The Cubs lost their opener 2-0 but Constantino was happy with a lot of what she saw from her players, especially going up against a team that already had some games under its belt and after having their own preseason limited due to the ongoing wildfires and air quality.
“Mendo, they have a pretty polished team and have played some games, and we played evenly with them,” Constantino said. “I feel good about how we played and I know as we get more practice in we’ll be able to create more scoring chances.”
The players appear to be buying into the challenge and embracing the competition for places.
“I like how the young players are really willing to learn,” the coach said. “And how they work hard and work well together.”