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FALLS SPORTS PREVIEW | Girls soccer: Falcon soccer team is determined to improve in Cascade Conference
LANGLEY — Falcon soccer coach Paul Arand wants his team to go back to the future.
In 2003, the Falcons won 21 games, overcame all opposition in its conference with a win over Nooksack Valley, then bested Vashon Island, Ridgefield, and Eatonville at state finals before succumbing to Connell 1-0 after a 4-2 shootout.
“We came very close that year,” Arand said.
Though the team has reached the first level of playoffs every year since, they haven’t made it back to state.
When 31 girls — including a possible soccer Wunderkind from Germany — showed up for the first day’s practice, Arand immediately put them on a fast track.
“We have the girls take a battery of tests,” the coach said. “We use them to determine skill level, strength, speed and endurance. Forwards need to be fast while mid-fielders are best at long distance.”
Soccer is a marathon sport, with 11 practices needed before the first game — which was yesterday at Interlake — and it takes a long time for a player to build the necessary skill levels.
This is Christine Johnson’s fourth year on defense, a position she loves.
“I can be more aggressive on defense and I’m not afraid of knocking around the other girls,” she said. She and the other seniors are planning a weekly after-practice dinner to help build a more united team.
“I can feel it; it’s going to be a great year,” she added.
Arand said the opposition never gets easier; he expects Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest to field their usual outstanding squads. “It’s the toughest soccer conference around,” Arand said. “They are quality opponents. We want to beat them every time. We spend time figuring out who their key players are and developing knowledge of how they like to attack.
“Knowledge is power.”
Arand spends a lot of time teaching the art of expecting the unexpected. “The game is so quick and fluid; sometimes you have to read three or four players at the same time,” he said. “Like basketball, except we have 10 players [plus the keeper] and they have five.”
Another soccer concept Arand instills is the capability to move the ball forward relentlessly, passing with authority and finding the seams in the other team’s defense.
Coaching girls to deal with the uncertainties of soccer is at the top in Arand’s rule book. “The faster they can react, the better they’ll do on the field,” Arand said.
Though senior Karissa Thomas, plagued by knee injuries last year, appears to be in good form, Arand said that the forward position will remain fluid for now.
“You might see Megan Larmore, Morgan Thomson or Paige Miller in that spot; we’re going to be changing positions on the field more than in the past,” Arand said.
Natasha Kamps is this year’s goalie.
“It’s my favorite position because of the intensity, being able to dive for the ball and helping my teammates by screaming encouragement,” she said.
“The best goalies have lots of experience. Until you get out there, you just don’t know. Things move fast at the varsity level,” Arand noted.
This year, Gary Peterson is coaching goal keepers and Katie Watson — a former Falcon herself — is assisting.
“Good planning and preparation by the entire team will equal victory on the soccer field,” Arand said.