David Carpenter has been at the helm of Skyview's boys soccer team all but one year since the program's inception. This season, he and last year's girls coach Rustin Hitchcock have switched roles. Hitchcock will lead the boys and Carpenter will begin his first year as head coach of the girls team.
"I decided a change could be fun for a while," Carpenter said.
Out of 24 girls on the roster, three are seniors. Those include Jessica Stewart, Monica Hutchison and Kassy Ferganchick. Two first-year juniors -- Alicia West and Megan Janorschke -- will also assist the team this year, Carpenter said. West plays varsity volleyball for the Panthers.
"She's very athletic," Carpenter said.
Janorschke traded in track for soccer this year.
"She's another junior that I think will do really well," Carpenter said.
With nearly 10 freshmen, Carpenter has a good pool from which to build the program.
"The most impressive class is probably the ninth-grade class," he said.
Having never coached the girls before, Carpenter said he's not sure who the top team in the region will be.
"It will just be interesting trying to see the change in speed, the change in style of play," he said.
One constant that's carried over from the boys is SkyHi's physical play, Carpenter said.
"It's a pretty physical group," he said. "I have to calm them down a bit when we're indoors. They're real excited to be there."
Coming together as a team is Carpenter's goal for the season. The Panthers start Tuesday against Grace Christian in Anchorage. And the season opener can't come soon enough for Carpenter's girls.
"They're getting excited," he said.
Kenai Central Kardinals
With the loss of Lacie Wortham, perhaps the biggest void to fill is keeper for Kenai Central. Wortham recorded three straight shutouts during last year's Northern Lights Conference tournament to put the Kardinals into the state tournament for the first time in three years.
Freshman Sydney Taylor is poised to take over for Wortham.
"She is developing fast as a goalie," Kards head coach Dan Verkuilen said. "She's got big shoes to fill, but she's willing to do it."
Wortham was one of 11 seniors to graduate from last year's squad. Five seniors are on this year's team, but just one starter, Molly Graves, from the 2009 campaign. Allie McGahan and Shelby Toombs, both juniors, also have varsity experience. Deandra Latz and Taylor Matson join Graves as senior captains.
"We're kind of building around some core players," Verkuilen said.
A large group of freshmen -- 18 girls -- have come out for soccer this year. Verkuilen also coaches the eighth-grade girls team and knows the incoming freshmen well.
"It's kind of a close-knit group of girls," he said.
As eighth-graders, this year's Kenai freshmen were borough champs, a good sign for the future of the program, Verkuilen said.
"There's just a good group of girls coming up," he said.
This year's team is not full of superstars, but hardworking, good athletes, he said.
"It's fun when you have a lot of good pieces, and we do," Verkuilen said. "I have a really strong group of girls that are willing to do whatever. I expect a lot of progress."
Last year, SoHi had a strong team and Verkuilen expects the same this season. The Valley teams, too, are always tough, in particular, Wasilla.
"Wasilla is growing by leaps and bounds," Verkuilen said. "I see Wasilla being strong."
Though eight new starters will take the field for Kenai, Verkuilen said he always has high expectations for his team.
"I have a lot of confidence in them," he said. "I think we're going to see a lot of growth in the next month and a half."
Third-year head coach Mike Tovoli has 16 returners coming back this year to varsity. Everyone that started last year is a key returner, Tovoli said.
"My team is a group of team players," he said. "I can't just pick one to mention. They're all as equally important."
Senior Shana Powell was named Northern Lights Conference MVP last season.
Tovoli said the top region team is anyone's guess.
"Pick one or the other. I really can't," he said.
Out of the Valley teams, Wasilla is the strongest, Tovoli said. Grace Christian is a wild card and can't be counted out, he said.
"You never know with them from year to year," he said.
SoHi has the ability to lead the South Division, Tovoli said.
"I do certainly like our chances, but time will tell," he said.
Last year, the Stars fell to Wasilla 3-2 in overtime of the NLC third-place game, which ended their season. SoHi will look to avenge that this year, Tovoli said.
"Our goal is to get to state this year," he said. "We missed out last year. It's attainable for us if we can play as a team."
First-year head coach Tommie CarlinSchauer is bringing a new style of play to Homer's program this year.
"I coach a European game," he said. "It's about possession and ball movement.
"It's not the typical kick-and-run stuff, which 90 percent of teams play," he added. "We're going to attempt to play more possession throughout the whole field."
And his team is buying into it.
"The girls are really sold on the program," CarlinSchauer said. "They understand what I'm trying to teach. They're committed and they're looking quite good."
CarlinSchauer came to Alaska two years ago and ran Homer's club program. Because of that, CarlinSchauer said he was already familiar with many of his players. He also coaches the girls middle school team.
Rhoslyn Jennings, Selina Mach, Liz Needham, Corinne Ogle and Mallory Zharoff are key players for Homer, CarlinSchauer said.
Though he thought this season would be a rebuilding year, CarlinSchauer has been encouraged by his team's practices so far.
"I think we're going to be a little bit better than I'd thought we'd be," he said.
Being new to Homer and to soccer on the peninsula, CarlinSchauer said he's not sure what to expect from the other teams in the region.
Thirty-six girls are playing soccer this year for Homer between junior varsity and varsity, CarlinSchauer said.
"For a small school, that's really not too bad," he said.
Homer won't be a conference power, but should improve upon last season, CarlinSchauer said.
"I've got a great group of girls," he said. "The athletes are very dedicated."
Ten of Nikiski's 11 starters from last year will return this season. The only one not returning is Abby Chadwick, who moved to Utah, said second-year head coach Mandy Adair.
"I think our defense has a lot more experience than we have had in the past," Adair said.
Two key pieces to that defense are seniors Jessica Samskar and Tyler Mabrey.
"They just have a lot of experience back there and they know what to do," Adair said. "I don't even have to think about them."
Angie Parrish returns as keeper for the Bulldogs.
"She brings a lot of heart back there in goal," Adair said.
Adair is also looking for good things from the Tuttle sisters, Logan and Brittany.
Adair said there has been an increase of freshmen interested in soccer this year.
"We have a lot of young girls," she said. "It's exciting for the future of the program."
Adair said she wants to improve on last year's two-win season. She said the girls want to prove they deserve to go to regions.
Seward will also field a girls soccer team this year. An e-mail to that program was not returned.
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