To Lauren Esler, every year playing soccer for Centaurus presents a chance to rewrite the history books.
And why not? After all, in her sophomore season of 2013, the Warriors did exactly that. The program made the quarterfinals in Class 4A postseason play for the first time in school history, and Esler’s scorching scoring foot was one of the reasons why.
In just two years with the Warriors, Esler has notched 34 goals while contributing 13 assists. Twenty-two of those goals and seven of those assists came last year, and Esler closed out her season as hot as anyone with six playoff tallies.
Not even injury will slow her down, or at least her attempt to lead the Warriors this season. She has a shoulder injury that caused her to miss the 2013-14 basketball campaign, but her soccer skills should not be affected.
“I was not able to play basketball, but soccer’s a whole other thing,” said Esler. “(Doctors) said I’d have to stop all activity and allow it to heal, or just learn to play through the pain and get used to it. There’s no way I’m going to stop playing everything for a year.”
Add toughness to the list of Esler’s attributes.
Senior teammate Danelle Dondelinger, a captain who will rule the team’s midfield, said she loves playing with Esler and has seen her grow into a big-time threat.
“I play attacking center midfielder, and so Lauren is just the perfect forward for me because she is intelligent and just into the game all the time,” said Dondelinger, who had 10 goals and six assists last year. “You want to see forwards make that run and open holes, and Lauren does a great job of making gaps for me to be able to get her the ball. She’s aggressive and she never gives up.”
“I think it’s all about hard work, but it’s the teammates around you, too,” said Esler. “If you make those runs and didn’t have the teammates around me, then it’s pointless. It’s the team, and how well we read each other. And that goes back to bonding (off the field) and spending time together.”
The Warriors did lose an exceptional player with the graduation of Shanlie Anderson, but Centaurus should still be able to maneuver through the Northern League gauntlet with the help of a solid senior group led by Dondelinger.
There is senior leadership sprawled throughout the pitch, including goalkeeper Kathy Tran and another captain, defender Kelsey Wood.
Meanwhile, the youthful forwards have talent beyond their years. In addition to Esler, junior Morgan Brendefur returns after approaching double-digits in goals last year, too.
With those pieces in place, Esler is banking on the team being in the race for a league title and ready for the playoffs, pen in hand prepared to ink another fantastic chapter to the school’s soccer records.
“(Last year) was amazing, and it was awesome to see that we could go that far,” Esler said. “We have a little different core, but I definitely think we can go as far and maybe even further. I’m excited to see how it all plays out.”
“We’ve really just been trying to play with each other a lot in the offseason, and our chemistry has gotten so much better that I think we might be even stronger this year,” Dondelinger said.
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