Read more about the successes of girls and boys basketball

The varsity girls soccer team is making its presence felt in the Capital Valley Conference this season, boasting an overall record of 8-2-2 and a league record of 5-1-2 which puts them in second place behind the Whitney Wildcats (8-1-0 in league), whom they beat 1-0 earlier in the year.

With six games left in the regular season and having already beaten some of their toughest opponents from last year (league and non-league), the Tigers are in the hunt for first place. Coach Paul Stewart attributes some of their confidence to team chemistry and prior success.

“They knew each other from day one,” Stewart said. “Our 14 returners from last season and the girls who have stepped up have all contributed. Losing to Vista Del Lago last year and beating them this year, losing to Rocklin last year and beating them this year; we have matured and we are starting to play with the big-dog teams. If we finish like I know we can, we will win out.”

In Stewart’s eyes, the girls must win out if they hope to land first place and the league banner. He believes that if they manage to do that and defeat the Wildcats again in the process, then it will be enough to clinch the league title and a good seed in the playoffs.

In terms of statistics, the girls have the second-best defense in the league, only allowing five goals so far, which is only one more than Whitney’s four. Their goal is protected mainly by sophomore keeper Ashlynn Hernandez, who has averaged 4.7 saves per game, recorded eight shutouts and only allowed six goals in the Tigers’ 12 games so far.

On the offensive side, Stewart recognizes that recently the team has found it tricky to find the back of the net, saying that the ball seems to manage to find a goalpost or crossbar.

Nevertheless, the 16 league goals the Tiger offense has put up leaves them second only to the Wildcats in goals scored. The attack is headed by sophomore forward Mackenzie Gill, who has recorded 10 goals overall this year, and is backed up by fellow forwards senior Jessica VanDerHaegen (four goals) and sophomore Kelsey Gill (three goals).

The Tigers are doing all of this with a team that is over one-third underclassmen, with one freshman and seven sophomores. All seven of these sophomores played on varsity last year as freshmen and have continued to build with the team, some even taking on leadership positions.

Sophomore center midfielder and captain Molly Branigan has high hopes for the rest of the season given that the girls continue to give their best effort. She hopes to surpass last year’s accomplishment of reaching the second round in playoffs and possibly win a section banner.

“We work really well as a team. and if we continue to work well as a team and work hard in practice as well as focus in games, I could see us in the playoffs,” Branigan said. “From there we are going to try and not repeat the mistakes we made last year in playoffs and hopefully get as far as we can. The goal was always a championship.”

  Stewart is putting focuses on maintaining the team’s defensive efficiency and improving the girls’ ability going forward.

“Defense. We put up shutouts and keep them from scoring,” Stewart said. “Goal scoring as well. We can’t keep ourselves out of the goal box, we need to win by more and finish. We need to take advantage of corner kicks and be opportunists.”

The Tigers take on the 0-5-1 (league) Antelope Titans tomorrow night at Antelope High School. In their first meeting this year, the Tigers came out on top 4-0.