By TED SILLANPAA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Three small schools are making a big impact on the North Coast Section girls’ soccer rankings, leaving the North Central League II in position to steal the spotlight from much larger schools.
“The top small schools can be competitive with larger school teams,” said Chris Ziemer, the coach of No. 6-ranked Sonoma Academy. “The larger schools are better than most small schools, but there are a lot of really good small school teams.”
This week’s MaxPreps.com rankings have NCL II leader Sonoma Academy (5-0, 7-3-1) sixth. Second-place St. Vincent (5-1, 9-2) is rated 10th, followed by Roseland Prep at No. 11. Roseland Prep is third in the NCL II, but is 4-3 overall after a tough preseason schedule.
“Our league clearly has three teams at the top, then teams in the middle and some teams at the bottom,” Ziemer said. “St. Vincent, us and Roseland Prep are in the top group and are really competitive.”
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Rincon Valley Christian was bumped into the middle of the NCL II Tuesday after a 9-0 loss at Sonoma Academy.
The Eagles’ gifted junior striker Hannah White kept pace with the Coyotes, and then said that the mismatch can be explained.
“Sonoma Academy and St. Vincent have lots of experienced players and some really good new players with (club team) experience,” White said. “We have a lot of players in their first year of soccer. It’s pretty hard to beat the top teams when we’re this inexperienced, but we only lost to Roseland Prep, 3-1. We’re doing fine. Everybody’s got a good attitude.”
Sonoma Academy junior co-captain Savannah Stoughton, who scored two goals and had five assists in Tuesday’s win, agreed with White’s assessment. “Our strength is that we have a good group of experienced players who combine well with the players who are still new to high school,” Stoughton said.
“That blend of older and younger players helps us. Our team has really bonded. We have good team chemistry.”
Sally Ziemer and Chloe Colbert also scored twice Tuesday for the Coyotes.
Colbert had three assists. Madison Adams, Katie Johannsen, senior co-captain Lucy Donaldson also scored. Payton Devore had two assists and Julia Willmers one.
Ziemer and Johannsen are freshmen. Colbert is a sophomore co-captain.
“Things are going really well,” Stoughton said. “We’re winning games. We look at games like the one (Tuesday) as preparation for playing St. Vincent and Roseland Prep. We don’t just go out there and take a team for granted. We play hard.”
Chris Ziemer said the quality of effort by Rincon Valley Christian 4-3 NCL II, 6-4-1) in the defeat speaks well of coach Michael Codling’s Eagles and the NCL II.
“Rincon Valley Christian played really hard, even when they fell behind. We really respect that in their players and their coaches,” the Sonoma Academy coach said. “They kept coming and kept hustling.”
Rincon Valley Christian’s White breaks down the NCL II race much like Chris Ziemer does, but she expects a two-team title race.
“All three teams are tough, but Sonoma Academy and St. Vincent are really good,” White said. “Roseland Prep isn’t quite as good as they are.”
St. Vincent is led by senior forward Rebecca Dodele and junior midfielder/defender Dale Leonheart. The Mustangs host Roseland Prep today at 4:30 p.m. in a contest that could determine whether the NCL II remains a three-team race.
“Dale is really good,” White said. “St. Vincent has lots of talent.”
Head coach Paul Sweeney’s team lost a nail-biter to Sonoma Academy, 2-1, on the road Sept. 20. The rematch is set for Oct. 15 in Petaluma.
“The first game was really close. We just managed to get the go-ahead goal,” Chris Zie-mer said. “Dodele played really well. I think, when we play each other, it’s just coming down to who plays well on the day.”