Spring Sports Preview: Girls’ Soccer

Mackenna Yount and Matt Rogge

After a winter of working on their skills and playing indoor soccer, the Manitou Springs High School (MSHS) girls are ready to get outside and take the pitch. Coach Ben Mack and Assistant Coaches Nathan Johnson, Scott Coté, Melanie Gordon and Jonathan Fugate form an impressive and experienced coaching team that is looking forward to the challenge of what appears on paper to be a rebuilding year. After losing 12 seniors off of last years’ squad, Mack is eager to see and work with the new crop of freshmen and blend them with his experienced players coming back from last year.

“One of the main losses from last year is losing the majority of our varsity team, due to them graduating, but we have a bunch of very talented lower classmen who I believe are capable of stepping into those roles, it’s just a matter of how all of the puzzle pieces fit together,” said Tera DeRemus (11), one of this year’s captains. 

There are around 15 freshmen going out for the team this season, which gives coaches the opportunity to grow the soccer program and get a fresh, new perspective on the team’s mindset for both Junior Varsity and Varsity. Keeping with the theme of young blood on the team, all four captains for the season are juniors. The captains include DeRemus, Sophia McKeown, Kat Yenne and Grace Olson. These captains are expected to be prime examples of leadership and teamwork for the rest of the team. Not only will they be figures for Varsity players to look up to and go to for any and everything, but they all also serve as that for the Junior Varsity team. 

“I’m really excited,” said Mack about the season, “We’ve got a great work ethic and a huge freshman class. A lot of them are pretty serious soccer players so that’ll be really fun to see them grow and develop.”

The biggest focus of the 2020 girls’ soccer season is to play possession soccer. It is easy for the team to not play that way because it takes much more work; if there are a few fast players, it’s easier to send direct balls and score. But Mack wants to get around that mindset and push for cool, calm and collected play. “Over the last few years, I’ve been convinced that playing the ‘right way’ is how we’re going to get over that hump of competing with some of the top teams out of Denver,” said Mack, “The big emphasis is on keeping the ball, keeping possession and making good choices.”

Playing possession soccer, developing a “blue-collar work ethic” and getting close as teammates allows Manitou to outwork other teams. Those other teams include many of the top 3A teams in the state, who Mack has scheduled the Mustangs to play so they can get ready for Leagues later in the season. He selects those teams to compete against because they are full of Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) players, typically girls who play highly competitive soccer all year long.

To match the drive and competitiveness of schools such as Jefferson Academy, Kent Denver, The Academy and Colorado Academy, Manitou wants to challenge themselves to play technically and exemplify their commitment to the sport. Mack said, “If we can get close in that technical department and then have that ‘blue-collar work ethic’ where we can outwork teams, I think we can really be competitive against anybody.”

The challenges are vital for preparing the Mustangs for those tough opponents they will meet throughout the season, as well as for preparing to try and snag the League Champion title for the sixth year. Even with setbacks from losing seniors, the team is prepared, focused and competitive. As Mack said, “I don’t think we’re going to skip a beat.” 

Manitou’s soccer program is no walk in the park, practices are filled with drills to sharpen the technical abilities of players. Hell Week measures the endurance of players and pushes them to work hard. The transition for some players, either from middle school or Junior Varsity, to the Varsity team will test the physicality of players and be a focus for how team meshes.

“The MSHS soccer program is a very fast-paced program that definitely tests a player’s intuition and skill level, which in comparison to a lot of other soccer programs I’ve played for, I really enjoy,” DeRemus said.

Even with the pushing from coaches for players to put their all into the game, players still love the sport and the team they’ve grown to love. “If we bond early on, then we can expect to go really far,” said McKeown, and that statement is true. Team bonding is vital for a team that wants to win. With a good relationship with teammates, players on the field have a connection that allows the team’s game to flow beautifully as if they memorized the exact events of the game before it even started.

The growth that this team encourages stems from the relationships players have built throughout high school or even before. Being able to watch other players grow and learn from their growth builds better athletes. “My favorite part is watching us grow as a team every year. Some of the girls I play with now are people I’ve been teammates with since I joined my first club team in fifth grade. Playing alongside them and playing for them gives me the greatest joy,” McKeown said.

The Mustangs aren’t just a team, “We’ve always been a family,” said Olson. Manitou soccer is in a stage of growth, fueled by hard work and dedication to the game. What the new freshmen, returning players and captains bring to the pitch is a force to be reckoned with. They will bring everything they have to this season to play the game in a way that turns up the heat for other teams.