By Ray Hamill — After a breakthrough season 12 months ago, the Del Norte Warriors are eager to take the next step in girls soccer this season.
Under first-year head coach Cyndi Hansen, a very young Del Norte girls team recorded the program’s first-ever North Coast Section playoff win last season.
This year, with most of those players back, the Warriors are looking to take some more steps forward.
“We’re excited for this year,” Hansen said. “We hope to make it (to the NCS playoffs) again and maybe win one more game. We’re happy we made it (last year), but we want more. We’re hungry to progress forward.”
The Warriors still have a pretty young roster, although Hansen has a nice mix of three seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen.
The team has been limited in the preseason, with one week of practice canceled because of the nearby fires, but the players are continuing to build for the season, with their opener set for next Tuesday at McKinleyville.
They should carry some momentum and confidence from last year into the new campaign.
In 2022, After losing seven of their opening eight games, the Warriors went on an eight-game unbeaten run and finished in a tie for second in the Little 4, before beating Fort Bragg 1-0 in the NCS playoffs.
“We’re still learning,” the coach said. “We strive to be like Arcata and Eureka, the big schools that have it down.”
There are some positive signs that the program is headed in the right direction, and more importantly there are signs that the players are buying into the process.
Last season, when Hansen asked her players who intended to play soccer in college, just one hand went up.
This year when she asked the same question, several players put their hands up, a sure sign the program is building a culture in a sport that the Warriors have traditionally struggled to compete with the rest of the Big 5 schools.
The team’s two captains — senior Channey Schaad and sophomore Aurora Mitchell — have been leading the way this year and will be expected to provide some key leadership in the coming months.
Schaad is a returning team captain, while Mitchell “just knows soccer,” according to her coach.
The talented duo will play alongside each other in center defense and they work well together, the coach said.
And it’s that defense the second-year head coach wants to build around.
“We always work on defense first and hopefully we can build on that and learn more offense,” she said.