Deep Pine Creek girls' soccer team wants to make deeper run at 5A state

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Photo - Pine Creek's Ryanne Parker (left) and Natasha Wehner (right) defend Doherty's Lindsay Thornock (center) during Pine Creek's win (3-2) on Saturday, April 23, 2016 at District 20 Stadium.  Photo by Spotlight Sports Photography.
Pine Creek's Ryanne Parker (left) and Natasha Wehner (right) defend Doherty's Lindsay Thornock (center) during Pine Creek's win (3-2) on Saturday, April 23, 2016 at District 20 Stadium. Photo by Spotlight Sports Photography.

Longtime Pine Creek girls' soccer coach John Frederick has no choice but to place some of his varsity-caliber players on JV.

There's just not enough room.

The Eagles come into the season with talent up and down their roster, so much so that Frederick says many worthy players won't even get a spot on the varsity team.

It's an enviable problem. And one that is in good timing, too.

The Eagles believe they have a chance to take a step forward, and not backward, even after moving on from last season's star seniors Jayne Lydiatt, Reece Hummel and Ryanne Parker, all who graduated onto college soccer.

"Last year we were probably the most talented team we've had," Frederick said of it, "but this year we're definitely the deepest."

The next step, meanwhile, is finding the path to a state title as one of the smaller 5A schools.

The Eagles haven't lost in their past 52 games inside the 5A Colorado Springs Metro League and have won eight consecutive league titles, according to the team. But that dominance hasn't carried over to the state playoffs and against the bigger teams from up north.

The girls' soccer program has yet to make the finals.

"The struggle is playing these schools with 5,000 kids - that's so many people to choose from," Frederick said. "5A is just one of things where the competition is extremely tough at the top. Once you get to the final eight it's anybody's game. If you have that unity, if you have that team, that'll push you on to the next step."

The Eagles are expecting 12 varsity players to return from last season and have a number of either new or returning prospects hungry to claim a varsity spot of their own.

The hope is for more team unity - balance over star power.

Last season, Lydiatt, now at the University of Oregon, led the team with 23 goals, 13 more than the next player. But this year, the Eagles have a more spread-out attack led by emerging senior forwards Natasha Wehner and Madeline Alhamra.

And in back, defenders Kylie Kapustka and Kellsie Knoerzer are the anchors in front of goalkeeper Jade Odom, who has recorded 22 shutouts in 40 career games.

"We might not be as talented - I mean, clearly Reece and Jayne were some of the best players our program has ever seen - but we still have a lot of comraderie within the team," said junior Knoerzer, who was on The Gazette's all-area first team as a sophomore. "We can create a pretty positive team dynamic. I think that will take us further than the skill."

How far? That remains to be seen.

Over the past three years the Eagles have fallen in the second round, the quarterfinals and the semifinals. To move further they will need to be "mentally tough," which happens to be the team's motto this season.

"We have a different mentality," Kapustka said. "I know our seniors are definitely hungry for a state title, at least making it to the state game. I think that's going to drive us further this year."