Girls’ soccer adjusts to moving up a division with small roster

December 10, 2022 — by Anika Kapasi and Kavya Patel
Photo by Allison Tan
Junior midfielder and striker Kate Oberhauser dribbles the ball between two Wilcox players on Dec. 6.
After moving to the De Anza League, the team has started to play in a different formation.

As the girls’ soccer team walked onto Benny Pierce field under the pouring rain for their first preseason game on Dec. 3 to face Westmont, feelings of excitement and nervousness flooded throughout the players as they warmed up waiting for the starting whistle. 

This season, head coach Ben Maxwell and assistant coach Andrew McRobbie introduced the team to a new style of play in an effort to strengthen their defense, a strategy necessary for tougher teams they will face after moving up to the more competitive De Anza league. 

The team kicked off their preseason with a 2-1 loss against Westmont on Dec. 3, a 3-1 win against Wilcox on Dec. 6 and a 3-3 tie against Los Gatos on Dec. 8, with the equalizer shot scored in the 77th minute by freshman Sahaana Potti. 

During practices, the Falcons have started to adjust their style of play and flexibility within two different formations after moving up leagues this year following their first-place El Camino league finish last year.

Last year, the team played only in a 4-3-3 formation with four defensive players (two center backs and two full backs), three midfielders and three offensive players. This allowed for a focus on attacking during games when the team did not have to worry so much about their defense. 

Due to the difference in level between the two leagues, however, the team has started to practice in a 5-3-2 formation, consisting of five defensive players (three center backs and two wingbacks), three midfielders and two offensive players.

McRobbie believes the team will benefit from the greater defensive support this formation provides during tougher games that require a higher level of play — especially against Mountain View and Los Altos. 

“We are going to play different kinds of opponents and we need to be tactically flexible so we can adjust and problem solve within games,” McRobbie said.

He added that when the opposition is better at keeping the ball this season, the team will benefit from a 5-3-2 as it allows them to be more disciplined in the back, giving better coverage to senior goalkeeper Angelina Hong. During games where Falcons dominate the ball, having flexibility within formations would allow the team to play with four in the defensive line, and help move higher up the field with greater numbers.

Even with a small roster of 21 players, an extremely strong offense this year — senior captains midfielder Gabi Golko and winger Aleks Verga, junior midfielder and striker Kate Oberhauser and two particularly skilled freshmen, striker Keatyn Spendlove and winger Sahaana Potti — has put the team in a position to find success as they build chemistry. 

“I feel that we have a lot of really good attacking players which will help us win games,” Oberhauser said.

However, the loss of key defensive players Emma Foley and Casey Gilligan to graduation along with an injury to junior center back Laurel Sun has left the defensive line short-handed. This year, the team features more offensive specialists than defensive ones.

Even with defensive concerns and a small roster, the team has shown promise with preseason success. They will wrap up their preseason with a game against Lynbrook on Dec. 22 before starting their De Anza play in January.

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