Fall prep preview | Oak Harbor soccer

As a young, inexperienced team in 2011, the Oak Harbor High School soccer squad took its lumps in the loss column, now it is ready to rack up some wins.

The team (which was 0-13-3 last year) is still young but not inexperienced.

Coach Jeff Laiblin said, “We are a young team overall, but we have the right mix of veterans to take this team forward.”

The Wildcats return nine letter winners, and only four (Megan Duhrkopf, Jember Jansen, McKenzie Schneider and Anne TePaske) are seniors.

Also back are juniors Chelsea Atkinson, Faith Franssen and Kyndra Sherman and sophomores Nalani Gabbert and Hayley Lundstrom.

Schneider was a second-team, all-conference performer last fall, and Gabbert was honorable mention.

The Wildcats would have had even more returning talent but five varsity players from last fall will not compete this year for a variety of reasons, according to Laiblin. A couple could return from injury in midseason and have the “potential to have a positive impact on the program,” according to Laiblin.

“That being said,” Laiblin said, “I feel this is the most talented group of players that I have had, and I feel they are ready to make a run at ending the decade-long drought of no postseason play.”

The nine returnees will get help from key newcomers junior Courtney Harrison; sophomores Alyssa Eden, Rebecca Pabona, Makenzie Perry and Lauryn Plush; and freshmen Suzanna Kaltenbach and Ayla Muller.

Laiblin said, “We have more players with year-around soccer experience then we had in the last three years combined, thus they are more skilled, quicker. They are stronger because they have been in the weight room.”

Lack of depth is a weakness, according to Laiblin, adding, “We have to stay healthy.”

He said, “My expectations are that the ladies will first grow as individuals and as a team as we work to achieve our goal of making the postseason for the first time in over a decade.  The talent is here…and if we stay healthy we can achieve that goal.”

Oak Harbor starts the season with nonleague matches against Whidbey Island opponents South Whidbey and Coupeville. The Wildcats host South Whidbey at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, and travel to Coupeville at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6.

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