It was a slow start for the Fleetwood High girls’ soccer team, which is trying to defend a Berks League championship this fall. The Lady Tigers missed as many as four starters to injury and illness, which resulted in the team losing three of their first five games.
Considering the program’s history, it was no surprise to anyone that they found a way to turn it around. Since then they have won six of their last seven matches and with a 5-0 record, they have a stranglehold on another division title.
What is a little surprising is the way they have turned things around. The team is playing with three freshmen starters, and two who are the first off the bench. That’s a lot of playing time for girls with no varsity experience coming into the season.
“I’m pleased with the way they have contributed to our team this year,” said Fleetwood head coach Mike Boyer. “They have all improved from the beginning of the season and continue to be key contributors to our team.”
The five are Kortney Rentschler, Carly Mitchell, Sydney Lobb, Katelyn Schoener and Emily LeVan.
“I feel that I’m playing pretty well, but there’s always from for improvement,” said LeVan.
“I feel like I’m adding to the dynamics of the team,” said Schoener. “I feel that I’ve joined a skilled group of girls, and I’m able to add my own ability to their level of play.”
Mitchell is off to a great start. she’s third on the team in goals with four. “I feel I’m doing a decent job,” she said. “I’m starting to really improve my playing and performance.”
As the girls’ get more experience on the field, they’re starting to feel more confident, and more comfortable in their play. Coach Boyer has been impressed with the poise in which they have been playing.
While most freshmen have time to adjust to the varsity level of play, including the speed and intensity in which the game is played, these five freshman don’t have much time. They are being heavily counted on to contribute to the team and defend a league title. Nothing less will be considered a really successful season.
“I was very nervous the first game, but as soon as the game started the nerves went away,” said LeVan, who scored two goals in Fleetwood’s 5-1 win over Berks Catholic on Sept. 11. “I feel very comfortable on the field because of the support and encouragement of my teammates.”
“I was nervous at the first couple of scrimmages, but I have settled into my game because I feel as though we are all equal on the field, and we present ourselves as a unified team,” said Schoener. “We’re like one big family, both on and off the field. The divisions of class are not apparent because we view each other as equals.”
“I had butterflies going into the first game as a starting freshman,” said Rentschler. “After the first couple minutes though, with my team supporting me, I was more comfortable,”
Not only are they playing with no varsity experience coming into the season, they are going up against girls with two or three years of varsity experience, plus many with much more club team experience under their belts. It’s a huge disadvantage for these freshman who don’t seem to be too concerned about it. They’re just forging ahead, doing the best they can to help their team win.
“Age is not a factor on the field,” said Mitchell. “Whether you are a freshman, senior, or in between, it all comes down to skill and work ethic.”
“I’ve always played up because of my age while playing in the Fleetwood Youth Soccer Club,” said LeVan. “I see it as a challenge and a way to always be on my game. I push myself to excel against any level regardless of age. I feel that playing with the older girls on the Fleetwood team has allowed my to develop into a better player.”
“I feel that the girls I’m playing with don’t care that I’m younger because we are all one team,” said Rentschler. “When it comes to playing the older girls, it doesn’t matter how old they are. You can be just as skilled and successful as them.”
“I like playing against older girls,” said Lobb. “When I get passed them it, feels good to know that they are most likely mad to be beaten by a younger girl.”
If sports is 90 percent mental, as Yogi Berra once quipped, then these girls will do well.
See Part 2 of the story in next week’s issue of The Kutztown Patriot.