The Lake Stevens girls soccer team roughed up Oak Harbor in their home opener 5-0 Thursday night at Wildcat Memorial Stadium.
The Vikings, who put up a 13-2-1 record last year while tying for the Wesco North championship, are now 2-0. In the preseason coaches’ poll, they were picked to win the conference title this fall.
Oak Harbor coach Jeff Laiblin said that his team’s inexperience led to numerous mistakes that enabled the Vikings easy scoring opportunities.
For the second match in a row, Oak Harbor goalie senior Maggie Gorman was under constant pressure. And for the second match in a row her coached praised her play and said the score wasn’t indicative of her effort.
“We’re so young,” Laiblin said, “and they exploited our mistakes.” Most of those mistakes were marking errors, according to Laiblin. “Our blown marking assignments really hurt us.”
He added that the Wildcats’ transition mistakes compounded the problem. Those miscues put Gorman under heavy fire and forced her to come up with 15 saves. She did get some help from seniors JJ Netthai and Clarissa Abadesco; each thwarted a serious Lake Stevens threat with strong one-on-one defensive efforts when a Viking had an excellent scoring opportunity.
Laiblin said he also got strong play out of junior Morgan Dutton and “liked her action” on the field.
Oak Harbor was also hurt by Lake Stevens’ physical strength as they won numerous head-to-head battles to control of the ball. However, the scrappy Wildcats did not back down and Laiblin was pleased with how much more aggressive his troops were than their previous match with Monroe.
Because of the defensive struggles, Oak Harbor had trouble mounting an offensive attack and had just two shots. Oak Harbor’s best scoring opportunity came off a free kick from 25 yards out by Dutton at the 36:30 mark of the second half. She centered her kick in front of the goal, but Oak Harbor was unable to punch it home.
Laiblin pointed out that the Lake Stevens players compete throughout the year, unlike many of his athletes. The result, he said, is that the Vikings are more skilled and physically stronger. “But we are getting there; we are getting better and stronger each day,” Laiblin said.
Oak Harbor has a tough schedule for an inexperienced team, having to play the league’s best teams right out of the gate. The Wildcats’ first four opponents (Monroe, Lake Stevens, Arlington, and Stanwood) qualified for the 4A playoffs last season. Then Oak Harbor’s fifth match is with defending 3A state champion Everett.
Although Oak Harbor has lost its first two matches by a combined score of 11-0, Laiblin remains optimistic. “I’m very happy. Did we get beat – yes. We are young and inexperienced, but I am seeing a lot of positive things on the field. We are gaining experience.”
That experience, he said, will help the team eliminate mistakes in the future and make them more competitive. Laiblin is looking forward to the second round of the schedule. “When we meet them (Monroe and Lake Stevens) again, we will play much better.”