CARSON CITY — After surviving a school board debate about whether the program should continue, the Carson City-Crystal Eagles girls soccer team is ready to show it belongs on the field.
And this year, it has numbers.
In January, the CC-C school board agreed to extend the soccer program another two years, giving coach Mallory Lynch a chance to continue to build the program and continue increasing the team’s wins.
In their first year as a sanctioned varsity sport, the Eagles won two games and, last year, Lynch’s first year as head coach, the team doubled its wins, despite only fielding 13 players.
This year, Lynch has a bigger team — and bigger goals.
“We have 19 girls to field the team this year. Eleven play on the field so we have plenty of fresh feet to get into the game this year,” Lynch said. “We are ready to improve and we’re ready to get going.”
Lynch said recruiting was successful at CC-C with the biggest selling point being health and fitness.
“Soccer gets you in great shape and a lot of the new girls liked that,” Lynch said. “I wouldn’t say this is an easy sport, but you don’t have to focus on hitting a fastball. You can run, learn skills … that’s not hard. And with 11 girls on the field at one time, you’re going to get playing time. It’s a sport you can actually play. You just have to be athletic enough to run as much as you can.”
Although the Eagles have a healthy number of players this year, they are still green in experience, with many of its experienced players graduating last year.
In its season opener last week, CC-C was mercied by Ithaca; however, Lynch sees many silver linings in the loss.
“That was the first time this group of girls played in a live game. We only have six returning girls from last year, so of those 19 girls, only a few have really played soccer before,” Lynch explained. “Against Ithaca, yes, we got mercied, but we made it into the second half before we got mercied. I think they did a good job.”
Junior Alyssa Keck is one of the team’s many players who decided to pick up the sport, being it the only sport she has played at CC-C. She arrived on the team late last season, but since then has dedicated herself to learn the sport and sharpen her skills, even playing fall soccer at Alma.
“Last year, we had more returning players and a lot of them were seniors. But everyone on this year’s team is catching on quickly with ball handling and talking with each other,” said the 16-year-old forward. “I’m glad we have more people. Last year, we had just enough to make a team and a couple times we had to play one or two players down because girls got hurt and there were no subs.”
Lynch, originally from east Detroit, has some experience on the team, both on and off the field. Ingrid Angard and Denise Oostinga, both foreign exchange students at CC-C, have played in their home countries and have offered to help Lynch with what they’ve been taught.
“They’re good,” said Lynch of her two foreign-exchange players. “Ingrid has helped me on the field and tells me what they do at practice at home. It’s pretty awesome. I don’t feel so much a one-man coaching team anymore.”
Lynch also is getting assistance from male students who love the sport, including Landon Bates, DeJesus Medrano and, returning from last year, Parker Gee, who serve as Lynch’s managers for the team.
While wanting to win more games than her team did last year, Lynch said the most important goal she hopes to attain is building interest in the program.
“Obviously, we want to get a couple more wins under our belts. It would be nice to up that ante,” she said. “But I really want to keep the girls interested. I don’t want anyone to quit. I want total improvement with this program.”
Lynch will be keeping the usual game statistics, but she will also be paying attention to other things, like how many times a player passes or shoots.
“I’ll be looking more for those personal triumphs than what the score is at the game,” she said.
Keck, whose father, Troy Keck, unexpected died last summer, said the memory of her father will serve as great motivation to do well this year.
“My dad will be a big motivation factor for me, for sure, and as a team, it’s just being more focused and aggressive than we were last year,” she said. “Our first game, nobody really knew how aggressive the girls can be. Our first game really opened their eyes to see how things are going to be. I hope we will be more aggressive as the season goes on.”
The players’ willingness to learn may just be the foundation of the team’s strength this year, according to Lynch.
“I haven’t had anyone say, ‘no, I’m not doing that.’ They all are trusting us that we know what we’re talking about as coaches,” Lynch said of her players. “Having that willingness is the best thing. They want to be a part of this team. They all have the willingness to learn.”
The Eagles’ home opener is at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday against Chesaning.