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NBL preview: Youth movement is the theme

Analy vs. Casa Grande girls soccerBy HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Maria Carrillo has dominated NBL girls soccer for four years. Will the dynasty crumble in 2013?

If pre-league results are an indication, the answer is no.
Despite graduating six senior starters, Carrillo has been impressive as ever while winning its first two games by identical 6-0 scores (over Sonoma Valley and Petaluma).

The fast start hasn’t been lost on the National Soccer Coaches Association, which has the Pumas ranked No. 10 in the nation.
Last year’s team, which won a North Coast Section championship, was ranked No. 1 by the NSCA.

“The top ranking was a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” coach Debra LaPrath said. “Five seniors from that team are playing college soccer now.”

While the seniors departed, 15 players have returned, led by Katie Prosser, Rachel Sellner and Sarah Sullivan.

“A team can’t lose six great seniors like we did and not miss a beat,” LaPrath said. “I knew we’d have a good team this year but I’m a little surprised it’s come together so quickly.”

LaPrath will get a handle on how her team stacks up on the national level this weekend. The Pumas are off to Baltimore on Thursday to participate in the McDonogh Invitational.

They’ll play McDonogh, the No. 4 team in the nation, on Friday, and No.6 Our Lady of Good Counsel on Saturday.

“We’re all excited about this trip,” LaPrath said. “It’ll tell us what we need to work on and tough games like these will get us ready for league.”

Carrillo opens NBL play Sept.14 with a home night match against Montgomery.

Just because the Pumas have won four straight NBL titles, don’t think LaPrath is already thinking about where to hang another banner.

“Every game in league will be tough,” she said. “You can never look past Montgomery, Casa Grande and Cardinal Newman.”

Montgomery has gotten off to a 3-0 start in preseason, which has coach Pat McDonald optimistic.

“We only have four seniors, so we figure to be a team that improves with experience,” he said. “I like the way our defense has meshed so early in the season.”

Like she did last year as a freshman, forward Taylor Ziemer figures to be the scoring leader for the Vikings.

“She’s far and away our best player,” McDonald said. “We do have some good young players, but we count on Ziemer to lead the attack.”

Another top-tier team in the NBL will be Cardinal Newman, although coach Paul Dixon cautions his team is young.

“We only have three seniors,” he pointed out. “I’m pleased with the way things are going in our pre-league games but we’re not one of the favorites to win league.”

Senior Jackie Dutton, who will be playing for the University of Denver next year, is the Cardinals’ best player.
Megan Moore, Grace Forsell and sophomore Amara Ortiz are also being counted upon by Dixon. Newman lost to Analy 1-0 in the final of the Arcata Invitational this past weekend.

“I was pleased with the way we played,” the coach said. “We tried a few different formations and did all the things you’re supposed to do to get ready for league.”