By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Never in doubt, yet always challenged, the Sonoma Academy girls soccer team had a young captain to take charge.
Gaining confidence with each touch of the ball, Chloe Colbert helped the Coyotes to the front of the pack. Only a sophomore, she led Sonoma Academy back to a section title and is the All-Empire Small School Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
“Soccer is my biggest passion. There’s no better feeling I get than in a soccer game,” Colbert said. “It’s the kind of commitment I’m proud of.”
In a region with several standout small school girls headed for major college competition, Colbert displayed both the talent and temperament to be the best.
Colbert scored in all but two of Sonoma Academy’s 22 games — the Coyotes lost once on the season — and accounted for the game winners in the biggest contests. She also averaged an assist per contest, revealing an unselfish ability to help make teammates better.
“We had the best team and she was the top player. She not only scored a lot of goals, but a lot of great goals,” said Sonoma Academy coach Chris Ziemer. “She works hard to improve and loves to play the game of soccer.”
Looking up at her school’s North Coast Section championship banners, Colbert wanted to contribute to the burgeoning Sonoma Academy girls’ soccer legacy. Slight of stature, she played biggest when the Coyotes needed her most in winning the NCL II and then the section small school girls title.
Colbert booted the game winning goal in all three contests with St. Vincent, twice in league play and in the section semifinal.
She scored the deciding goal in the section title win against defending champion Middletown.
Colbert’s scoring totals — 37 goals, 22 assists — would have been higher if not for moving to defender with games in hand.
“Each day I felt I got better at the game,” Colbert said. “I was ready to score and work with my teammates. The only way to take control of games is to score.”
Such a nose for the net developed during play with her Santa Rosa United club team after Colbert’s first season at Sonoma Academy.
Moved from defender to attacking center midfielder with the SRU Freeze, Colbert soon appreciated the opportunity to finish chances created by teammates.
“I gained a lot of confidence. I started attacking more,” she said.
Receiving the ball is one thing. Adding to the play is another. Possession is at a premium when teammates trust you with control of the ball.
“Every time she touches the ball she is a threat to make something happen,” Ziemer said. “Her athleticism, work rate and skill combine to make her a dangerous player.”
Going into the season Sonoma Academy’s players were primed to improve. Colbert personified the Coyotes determination.
Returning nine starters, Sonoma Academy mixed in several strong new players. The four captains, including Colbert, made clear to all the team’s goals: Win the NCL II and take back the NCS small school title.
“We showed the new players how serious we were,” Colbert said. “But you need to have fun in order to be passionate about what you’re doing.”
Fun for Colbert was breaking down a double team for a shot or advancing play to create chances for teammates.
“I had to get free and look for passes more quickly and recognize opportunities,” she said.
A year older and stronger following an impressive freshman season, Colbert was ready for the rigors as the focus of opponents.
“She came back a much improved and much more confident player,” Ziemer said. “As a young captain my main hope was that she would lead by example, which she did every time she stepped on the field.”
Such success would not be possible without her teammates, Colbert said.
“You’re only at your best when you play your best,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to have near the confidence as an individual player without my teammates.”
You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Chloe Colbert, Sonoma Academy, sophomore
Hannah Diaz, Middletown, senior
Savannah Stoughton, Sonoma Academy, junior
Kaleigh Alves, Middletown, sophomore
Rebecca Dodele, St. Vincent, senior
Paige Spradlin, Sonoma Academy, junior
Dale Leonheart, St. Vincent, junior
Amy Mora, Cloverdale, senior
Jazmin Orozco , Cloverdale, senior
Maddie Perry, St. Vincent, senior
Payton Devore, Sonoma Academy, junior
Jacalyn Murphy, St. Vincent, senior
Perla Anguiano, Cloverdale, junior
Caitlin Lemoine, Middletown, freshman
Yasmine Sotelo, Roseland Prep, freshman
Ashley Hart, Middletown, senior
Kelcie Reynolds, Clear Lake, senior
Sally Ziemer, Sonoma Academy, freshman
Taylor Owen, St. Vincent, sophomore
Hanah Faso, Cloverdale, senior
Alondra Marin, Calistoga, junior
Mariah Crump, St. Helena, senior
Julia Willmers, Sonoma Academy, senior
COACH OF THE YEAR
Chris Ziemer, Sonoma Academy