LONGMONT — The Silver Creek girls soccer team may have graduated eight seniors from last season's Northern League champion club but the Raptors aren't counting themselves out in 2016.
They're planning for a repeat conference title.
Rather than rebuilding or rebooting, head coach Pat Monacelli is approaching the 2016 campaign with the idea that the Raptors should be able to simply pick up where they left off. While the Northern League is not a conference to be taken lightly and the Raptors aren't, many of the returning players who watched some of their best players graduate last May are buying what Monacelli is selling.
"It's definitely been a change needing to fill some vital positions," senior midfielder Katy Foster said. "But we have a bunch of talented freshmen and we are a really dynamic team. We have so many talented and versatile players that we won't be a predictable team in how we play, how we attack and where the shots on goal come from. I think we should be able to defend our title."
Foster was one of three players who led the Raptors with eight goals last season. One of the three, Lauren Martin, graduated. The third, Bayly Herman, is back for her senior season in 2016.
Every team loses players to graduation, Foster said, so getting back two of your three leading scorers isn't bad.
Plus, Foster and Herman plan to team up and work together to help replace the team's lost scoring production, which shouldn't be too hard considering only one other senior scored just one goal last season.
"Bayly and I understand each other really well," Foster said. "She's really good at dropping back into the defense at times, which lets me get into the attack, plus she's really speedy so it's easy to play through balls to her."
After winning the regular-season conference title last year, the Raptors entered the Class 4A state tournament as a promising 11th seed. In the first round, however, they were upset by No. 22 Discovery Canyon. With expectations to improve on that as well, Foster and Herman aren't the only familiar pieces to the puzzle.
All-conference defensive midfielder Lexi Dageenakis is a senior this season. Sophomore goalkeeper Kaeyla Noble, who played in seven games with four shutouts last season, is back in the mix and will start in goal.
"Our conference is pretty good but our confidence is high," Herman said. "The Northern is a really good league for soccer but we have seven seniors and a great group top-to-bottom so we like our chances. Katy and I will definitely try to score more goals than last year but we're really working hard to get everyone on the team involved because we have so many good players."
Losing players to graduation is tough but this year's Raptors feel as though they got back more than they lost. They're hope is that's enough to remain atop the Northern League pinnacle for at least one more year.