The target on the Pine Creek High School girls’ soccer team hasn’t looked this good to other top teams in the Class 5A Colorado Springs Metro League in some time.
The Eagles claimed their ninth-straight league title via tiebreaker in 2017 even though their 54-game CSML win streak was snapped by Rampart along the way.
Pine Creek coach John Frederick denies there's any secret to his program’s success.
“We’re just fortunate to have been able to develop a program that people want to come to Pine Creek for,” Frederick said.
“From the time we started the program until now, it’s always been about having fun, wanting it more and working hard.”
Pine Creek lost eight key contributors including its three leading scorers and goalkeeper Jade Odom. All four continued their careers at Division I or II programs.
While many of the faces will be different, expectations remain lofty.
“Our goal is still to win the state championship,” Frederick said.
The core of the 2018 squad figures to be in the back where senior defenders Kellsie Knoerzer and Payton Smelker lead a group that lost just one starter.
“We have a very strong defense,” Smelker said. “Most of the players we lost were forwards.”
“I think that’s going to be our identity,” Frederick added.
Knoerzer is one of three center backs to ever start all four years for Frederick in his 20 years in charge. She’s headed across Interstate 25 to play at Air Force next year.
“You can’t coach some of the stuff. It’s just ingrained in her head to cut down angles,” Frederick said.
“Then you add her speed … even if she does get beat, you better be quick at getting rid of the ball or you’re going to get in trouble. She’s a competitor.”
The hope is that the Eagles can reload elsewhere.
The leading returning scorers, juniors Myah Isais and Torrie Brodish, each scored six goals a season ago. If there is a positive spin, it’s that the Eagle attack could be less predictable.
“This year, who are they going to game plan against?” Frederick asked rhetorically.
“We’re going to attack from all angles.”
The goalkeeper situation presents some insight into Pine Creek’s run of CSML dominance. Junior Azlan Tubbs waited her turn behind Odom only to see freshman Lauren Lacy come in and challenge for the job while another is relegated to junior varsity duty.
“We’re OK in the goalkeeper position,” Frederick said. “We have three that can probably play varsity for a lot of programs.”
Senior Rachel Duggan is expected to bring some direction to the midfield where there's a mix of experience and young talent.
“I’m just trying to make everything work and be creative about it,” she said. “Facilitate a lot … that’s the goal at least.”
The Eagles will start their quest toward a 10th straight league title Thursday when they open the season against Vista Ridge.
"We lost some good talent, but definitely with the younger girls that are coming in, we’re making it up," Knoerzer said. "They’re really talented players."
After ending the streak a year ago, it’s safe the say the Rams - and to some extent Doherty and Liberty - have made it clear the CSML crown won’t be gifted to Pine Creek on reputation alone.
“Hopefully we win it again this year, but Rampart has some really good talent,” Knoerzer said.
“It’s going to be on our backs this time, not just our legacy.”