Girls soccer teams in the Blue Water Area are ready to find their groove now that spring break is over. Students are back from vacation and the weather is (gradually) starting to cooperate.
While most teams have only played a handful of games, coaches are starting to get a glimpse of what their seasons might look like.
Perfecting its passing is the key for Algonac
The Muskrats are off to a 2-1 start and have outscored their opponents 14-3 this season. If not for a few missed chances in a 2-1 loss to Imlay City on April 11, they very well could be undefeated.
"It was a huge disappointment," Algonac coach Chris Viney said. "We carried the play to them 85% of the time in their field, had multiple opportunities to score and just couldn't find the net."
The defeat stuck with Algonac for nine days. When the Muskrats finally returned to the pitch Wednesday against Almont, they brought along their brand of soccer.
"This was more like the type of game that we work to create," Viney said. "We controlled the play, we passed and we created shooting opportunities that we work on in practice. That's always wonderful to see."
Algonac's offense clicked during its 5-1 win over the Raiders. Natalie Boulier and Katie Dusenberry each scored two goals while Piper Baumgarten added one. Jena Dusenberry helped mightily with shot creation and totaled three assists.
Boulier's ability to dribble and direct traffic was on full display. It's made her a vital part of the Muskrats' attack.
"She is the quarterback on our team," Viney said. "She controls the play and is a very, very good player."
Overall, Viney has been pleased with his team's performance in the first three games of the season. However, there are still adjustments that need to be made — one of which was apparent to the coach during Wednesday's victory.
"It's early, but we need to do a better job of connecting passes," Viney said. "Not just kicking the ball to a general area but really playing the ball to feet. That's the most important part. We've got to get the ball playing to feet.
"We still haven't had many opportunities — under good pressure — to be able to make good passes and make good plays. But we're just going to continue to get better. We've got a very good team ... if we continue to play like this we'll do okay."
Young Almont team works to 'fill those shoes'
For a team that lost seven starters to graduation, the Raiders aren't shying away from their youth. Instead they're embracing it.
"We have a bit of an inexperienced team," Almont coach Mike Kepler said. "So we have a lot of shoes we're filling and a lot of players that are still in the learning process. And they're doing well."
One of those players is sophomore Jesse Kautz, who already has eight goals this season. She's on pace to easily surpass the 13 she scored as a freshman.
"She's dangerous," Kepler said. "And when we're playing the right soccer she's hard to match. She's like a gazelle — she's so fast."
But the season can be a slow grind. Almont, which currently sits at 2-2, has already endured some ups and downs. Each of the Raiders' four games have been decided by four or more goals.
It's been a bit of a rollercoaster so far, which is why the leadership of Almont's five seniors will be crucial.
"I am looking for them to keep our hopes up and use that experience they have to help these young girls and guide them throughout the season," Kepler said.
During the loss to Algonac, the Raiders remained upbeat. Players discussed strategy on the bench and substitutes wasted no time checking into the game. Reserves leaped to their feet when Tara Tencza scored the team's lone goal with 7:23 left in the first half.
"The girls are doing the best they can to fill those shoes," Kepler said. "It's going to be a learning process here. I do think we'll have success, but it's going to come with some bumps and bruises."
Contact Brenden Welper at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BrendenWelper.
This article originally appeared on Port Huron Times Herald: Girls soccer: Algonac boosts offense, Almont starts 'learning process'