Girls’ soccer team hopes to carry preseason success into league games

January 31, 2022 — by Jonny Luo and Arnav Swamy
The team plays a game on Jan. 25.
The preseason allowed the team to build chemistry and try out various formations, and while the pandemic rattled the season slightly, the team hopes to keep their momentum going.

While the unpredictability of the pandemic is the biggest opponent for many sports teams this winter, girls’ soccer players are so far managing to hold their own on the pitch with a cast of strong seniors.

They began the league season with a  0-0 tie against Fremont on Jan. 4, a 3-0 win against Monta Vista on Jan. 13, a 5-1 win against Lynbrook on Jan. 18 and a 5-0 victory over Wilcox on Jan. 20 — leading to a 3-1-0 record. Their record continues a series of strong performances, as the team performed well in preseason games with a 4-1-1 record.

The game against Fremont, the first game in the official league season, was one of the hardest games for the team. They were able to shut down Fremont’s offense for the duration of the game, but they struggled to execute and score. 

“We developed our team chemistry and learned how to play really cohesively with each other,” said senior outside forward Anjali Nuggehalli, who is new to the team after playing competitive club soccer alone in recent years. “It was also an opportunity to try different girls in various positions and experiment with different formations and strategies.”
However, the Falcons’ game schedule has been impacted by the pandemic: A game against Cupertino was rescheduled to Jan. 20 due to COVID-19 cases on the opposing team, and a game against Milpitas was rescheduled to Feb. 5 because the school went online due to the recent omicron surge. 

The team has also seen two COVID-19 cases (1 player and 1 coach), but has not been significantly affected, Nuggehalli said. All players have been following the school and county guidelines and have been testing at school. 

“The surge in cases has made us play harder because we never know if a game is going to be our last,” Nuggehalli said. “As a result, we play to win every time we step onto the field.” 

Nuggehalli, who has been recruited to play Division 3 soccer at Pomona College, has played soccer since age 5; however, this is her first year playing on the school team due to transferring to De Anza Force ECNL, which — unlike her previous club, U.S. Soccer Development Academy — allows her to play both club and high school soccer. 

“It’s been a new experience being the oldest on the team and playing with younger girls, and it’s been an opportunity to work on my leadership skills both on and off the field,” Nuggehalli said. “I’m super lucky to have such spirited and hardworking teammates, and I wouldn’t want to head into the season with anyone else.” 

Players such as senior co-captains and outside defenders Casey Gilligan and Emma Foley are also critical members of the team because of their speed and aggressiveness, Nuggehalli said. She added that senior co-captain midfielder Lauren Yarrington is an essential part of the team’s offensive plays. 

“All three seniors are amazing leaders both on and off the field in their own unique way,” said Nuggehalli. “The team is so close knit because of their high level of play and communication.” 

With goalie Raina Hirekatur’s powerful defense paired with Nuggehalli’s, Yarrington’s and sophomore Katherine Oberhauser’s coordinated offense, Nuggehalli is looking forward to a strong season with a well rounded team.

The team hopes to extend their success beyond preseason and early league games and continue their momentum for the rest of the league season. 

“We have a lot of depth on this team and a lot of girls who specialize in different things which make the team really strong,” Nuggehalli said. “I’m having so much fun playing with these girls, and it has been amazing to have gotten so close to them. I’m super optimistic for the rest of the season, as long as we keep up the intensity in training and execute well in our games.”

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