By GERARDO RECINOS
For three years now, the Class of 2017 has left the pitch with a bad taste in their mouths after being eliminated in the playoffs. As if any extra motivation was needed, the fact that they’re seniors now means this season could be one of the best in recent memory.
Alhambra’s girls soccer team was one of only three teams whose league got harder rather than more lenient. They lost Dublin and Dougherty Valley in their league but gained a tough College Park team, all the while keeping on Las Lomas, Acalanes, Miramonte and Campolindo.
“I can tell that they don’t want to be there again,” said Coach Ed Marinelli of the playoff exits of years past. “We take one opponent at a time and make sure we’re healthy.”
And they haven’t always been healthy in the past. This season they will be without Adriana Saroni, who has been a starter since her freshman year, and the team has had to make a lot of adjustments around that. “We were really looking forward to her coming back,” Marinelli said. “Big loss, but we’ll make up for it.”
Four seniors that came into the team as freshman have all been coached by Marinelli for the four years he has been with the program. He sees them as his leaders on the team, but just like when they came into the program, there is another group of freshman who have made some early strides to be a unit that could follow in their footsteps.
“One or two may even start,” Marinelli said. “It’s starting all over again, and they’re pushing those upper classmen for playing time.”
At the moment Marinelli is moving things around to see what lineup gives his team its best shot to win, and he has already made some moves that have changed up the way the team plays.
At the start of the season he had captain Sarah Emigh playing in central defense, but as the team started to settle, the emergence of junior Jenna Coffman has allowed him to move Emigh back into the midfield where she is at her best. Her ability to play off of one another with junior Carly Agostino really gets the team ticking.
That, along with holding midfielder Sam Pearson, steadies up a strong middle of the park and allows defenders like Lindsey Alford, Chakeira Cox and freshman Chloe Taylor to play a bit more aggressively when needed.
The league is going to be tough, so solid defense will be necessary.
“The team that can step up at the right time, or the team that makes a simple error is going to lose,” Marinelli said. Parity like this has always been a part of soccer in this area, but with six quality teams battling it out, only Campolindo did not make a North Coast Section playoff last year of the six teams in the Diablo Athletic League.
“Just about anybody right now can beat any team,” Marinelli said of the six-team league.