Second-year Lake girls coach Steve Hoffman returns a very young squad — one senior and nine freshmen — from a team that finished 12-4-4 overall and claimed the inaugural SLL girls championship with a 6-0-2 mark.
This year’s Flyers have gotten off to a good start, shutting out Delta on the road Tuesday, 5-0, as goalie Ashley Timmons saved seven shots on goal.
Meanwhile, the Flyers’ scorers were setting a couple records. Sophomore Hannah Cox scored four goals, a new school record for a single game, and forward Shelby Antonacci had four assists, another school record. Samantha Phalen had the other goal and Dani Hug added the other assist for Lake.
Last season, the Flyers advanced to the Division II regional semifinals, where they lost to unbeaten Liberty-Benton 1-0.
"As soon as those girls realized they could win some games and be competitive and they bought into our system we brought in, they played better as the year went along," Hoffman said. "Every game was a learning experience for them and they just ran with it."
The Flyers' lone senior is midfielder Kristen Lehman.
"She's basically the leader of our team," Hoffman said. "She's a two-time captain and our field leader and clubhouse leader. She has good skills in everything. She'll only score a few goals with a few assists, but her role on this team is to lead these kids on and off the field."
Junior forward Drew Plummer led Lake with 22 goals and added four assists last year en route to earning first-team all-district and SLL Player of the Year honors.
"She's very aggressive and has good speed," Hoffman said. "She uses both feet equally and when she has it in her mind that she's getting the ball, she gets the ball."
The other returning starters are junior defenders Cox, Hilary West, Tara Preble and Emily Whitmore, sophomore defender Casey Hughes and sophomore midfielder Lindsay Hoffman. Cox and Hoffman led the team in assists (6) last season.
Preble was named first-team All-SLL, and Whitmore is a co-captain.
"Emily is in her third year as a starter and she is a solid defender," Coach Hoffman said. "She is fast with good ball skills. She has become a big part of this team leadership-wise this season. She has really taken an active role as a leader."
Junior midfielder Samantha Phalen also returns and will be joined by nine freshmen including Timmons in goal and forwards Kayla Encalado and Antonacci.
Timmons is replacing first-team all-league goalie and team MVP Kelsey McCloskey, and the new keeper got a good start Tuesday against the Panthers.
"They're all skilled players," Hoffman said of his freshmen. "They came from travel soccer; they have played the last six years on travel teams. They are skilled enough that they would be playing at any high school in our area."
Hoffman said his expectations for this year's team are to be competitive in the SLL and in the postseason tournament.
"We graduated seven seniors last year and we brought in nine freshmen this season, and we have to replace 30 goals from last year," he said. "Who steps up to score those goals, we need to find them somewhere. We're going to be filling some pretty big shoes with freshmen. I need the upperclassmen to take it up a notch and the freshmen to come in right away and contribute."