The Erie girls soccer team is most certainly bucking the trend when it comes to newer programs. That also means the expectations in the Tigers' third year of varsity play are higher than ever.
Many of the seniors on this 2017 team, now headed by former Metro State assistant and current Broomfield Soccer Club coach Megan Remec, played a large part in getting EHS rolling right out of the gates in 2015 — when they went 8-7 despite not even having a "buffer" year of junior varsity.
Year No. 2 equated to a blistering 12-4 record, and the Tigers' first ever playoff appearance out of the Tri-Valley League.
To set that standard has been adventurous and memorable, seniors Fiona McNeal and Tiana Linkus agreed after a recent practice.
"It's been interesting for sure because I still remember our first practice ever and there were only about three of us who had ever touched a soccer ball before," said McNeal, a forward. "You look to now, we still get new girls but we have more girls and more girls that have played club. I think we have a good balance, and at the end of the day everybody is working hard together to achieve goals."
"Since we made playoffs last year there is that expectation to get back, and I think all of us on the team feel we can go even farther than last year because we are more developed," added Linkus, a returning defender. "We have a high expectation of our league as well, staying up near the top and hopefully winning it this time."
The TVL is tough, but Erie has been contending in it since their inception. In 2015, they won their last four league games to build some confidence and that carried over into the beginning of the 2016 with a five-game winning streak to start the year. The Tigers scored 83 total goals in their run to the postseason and finished third in league behind Windsor and Holy Family.
Some of those goals — quite a few in fact — came off the feet of now-graduated Charlie Miller and then-freshman Alicia Cardenas. As of the preseason, Cardenas was likely not going to be returning to the Tigers this year, opting to commit more to the club scene.
That said, there are still a ton of scoring threats and more who could emerge.
Fiona's sister Alison McNeal, just a sophomore, also scored 18 goals in 2016 and classmate McKenna Harrington hit double-digits with 10. Fiona McNeal and Shaunah Xiong give the team additional fleet-footed girls who are tough on the ball.
"We have a group of sophomores that have experienced big games in club and I think they're going to bring that over to high school, and we have some talented freshmen, too," McNeal said. "I think we have a lot of great chemistry and we're just going to keep adding to that."
Linkus is excited at the fact Remec brings a more defense-oriented game to the table as well. The Tigers were pretty good defensively in their second year but want to eliminate even more opponent chances this year.
Joining Linkus on the back line is senior Maddie Foster, junior Kennidy Sakalosky and freshman Dana Johnson — all in front of senior goalkeeper Megan Marcoux. The holding midfielders are also expected to flow well together and make those key countering passes.
"I love the defensive mindset, and we also have some new talent in defense that's going to make us more balanced," Linkus said.
"Not having seen them play, what I just hope to bring to them is just a little bit more attention to detail in each of the layers that we're looking at," Remec said. "This group has good defensive players and we just have to group that together while still finding a good offensive identity. We're still trying to figure out what that all is still going to look like.
"This is a high-achieving group that wants to do well and that plays in well to us setting standards with the younger players we bring in, getting them to buy in early. It's exciting to be around."