SHS girls’ soccer preview
summit daily news
FARMER’S KORNER – Junior Jessica Malknecht has been through just a handful of practices with the Summit High girls’ soccer team. Yet, the transfer student from Hawaii has seen enough to know exactly what the Tigers hope will characterize their spring.
“We’re getting better every day,” she said.
And with a young squad that went through a rough season a year ago, improvement is what head coach Tommy Gogolen is focused on more than anything.
“The fact a lot of those girls played so much last year, it’s really going to help us out,” he said. “They understand the game, they know what to expect, and to have that as sophomores and juniors is great.”
The Tigers will rely on a core group of underclassmen when the season gets under way Thursday at Jefferson High School, and that includes their appointed leaders.
Team captains Malknecht, junior Hailey Curnutte and sophomore Nicole Chandler are each at positions on the field critical to the Tigers’ success. Curnutte will be between the pipes, Chandler will help to anchor the defense and Malknecht, well, Gogolen expects her to do something the Tigers haven’t done too much of the past few seasons – score goals.
“Last year, our defense was pretty strong, but we had nobody that could put the ball away,” the third-year coach said.
The lack of offensive firepower left Summit struggling through much of last season. The Tigers, despite a lopsided win-loss record, were competitive in the majority of matches, but in the end, couldn’t keep up the pace in the opponent’s end.
This year, Gogolen’s hoping some key additions to the team and more attention on conditioning can help to make up the difference.
“We’re going to play a lot of teams that are better than us, but we want to be (more fit),” he said. “You can always win games if you’re the team that wants it more and is (more fit).”
Summit had more than 40 girls try out for the team this year. The Tigers don’t have a junior varsity or C squad in the program, so Gogolen was forced to make quite a few cuts.
Summit may add other teams in the future, but right now, Gogolen is focused on the task at hand – and he feels his team is, too.
“We are young, we are extremely young, but I like it,” he said. “They’re very eager to learn and listen to the coaches.’
The Tigers will play a number of freshmen, and Gogolen said Chandler is part of a trio of sophomores, along with Cora Zimmerman and Makayla Lorch, who benefited greatly from getting time on the pitch last year.
“It’s huge. Those freshmen got a lot of experience last year,” the coach said. “I didn’t have much choice – or actually, I did, and they definitely stepped up and filled holes last year. With the jump in maturity this year, I already trust them to play in big spots as sophomores.”
Still, the team isn’t expecting to make a playoff run or to hang any championship banners this year. Most likely, the Tigers are a year away from challenging the best teams in the Jeffco League, teams that regularly put out NCAA Division I players.
For now, the Tigers’ attention is focused on controlling what they can.
“I want us to try out hardest and show how much heart Summit has,” Curnutte said. “Even though we’re a smaller team with younger girls, we can play to the levels of teams with two or three teams – JV and C teams. We can play just as good as them because we have more heart.”
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