Women’s soccer: Eagles flying high

Anna Waldman, shown sliding, is the Eagles’ force up front, a powerful striker who finishes chances. The former Mendocino High School star leads the state in scoring. (Mendocino College)

Anna Waldman, shown sliding, is the Eagles’ force up front, a powerful striker who finishes chances. The former Mendocino High School star leads the state in scoring. (Mendocino College)

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Early summer workouts provided a glimpse of how Mendocino College could improve on a history-making season in women’s soccer.

Deeper and more skilled at every position, Mendocino’s players have worked hard to again rank among California’s top junior college teams.

“We’ve got strong points on all parts of the field,” said Anna Waldman, who leads the state in scoring. “We have girls that love to compete. We’ve been racking up the points.”

Undefeated and aiming for a deep playoff run, Mendocino wants to improve on last season. The Eagles won the program’s first Bay Valley Conference title and state playoff game a year ago.

“This year we want to make the final four,” said Ronnie Richter, the state leader in assists. “We just have to keep working hard every minute of every game.”

Fitness and strong all-around play have made Mendocino unbeatable so far on the season.

Scoring more than four goals a game, Mendocino yields just over one goal per contest. Mendocino is third in the state in scoring.

“We have a team that works hard together and each player does a good job at playing their role,” coach Shane Huff said. “We have players that can create and score goals. We have five excellent defenders and a solid goalkeeper. We work hard in practice at working on total team effort.”

With five returning starters, Mendocino had a strong core. Waldman, from Mendocino High, is the force up front, a powerful striker who finishes chances. Richter, also from Mendocino High, helps build the offense from the midfield. Skilled in the midfield and on top, Taylor McMillin, out of Eureka, has been one of the Eagles’ most improved players and right behind Richter in the state lead for assists.

“We’re pretty good about breaking teams down and finding scoring opportunities,” Waldman said.

Trusting teammates to attack and defend as a unit has been one of Mendocino’s strengths.

“We do both well,” Richter said. “Our second year of actually playing at a more competitive level has taught us more about each other.”

A talented class of first year players has bolstered the Mendocino program.

Anchoring the defense is center back Winnie Stitt, a strong, athletic player from Arcata. Fast and a stopper, Toree Iniguez, from Manteca, plays on the back line and in the midfield. Midfielder Maci Feliz, from Bakersfield, is the team’s third-leading scorer. In goal is K.T. Milone, from Ukiah High, a strong, much improved keeper.

“The young ladies have a great work ethic and willingness to learn. Overall we are a technically good team,” Huff said.

Playing faster and opening games stronger are areas where Mendocino is working to get better.

“The ties have been just because we struggle to get switched on,” Waldman said. “We work hard and have the fitness to play strong for 90 minutes.”

Two of the Eagles’ ties have come against Folsom Lake, including Friday’s contest in Ukiah. New to the Bay Valley, the Falcons have the edge in the push for the conference title. With two games to go, Folsom Lake has one more win than Mendocino.

“We make goals every game to remain sharp,” Richter said. “We constantly have to play as if we’re playing Folsom every game.”

An undefeated regular season would be a great result even if Mendocino finishes second in the conference.

Still, the Eagles are hungry for more.

Months of fitness and weight training, summer soccer class and team activities have Mendocino playing tough and together. A deep playoff run is the aim.

“We want more this season,” Richter said. “We looked around from the very beginning and thought it was possible.”

 

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