Even with a roster that resembles a JV team, Royal Oak Shrine varsity girls soccer coach Mark Soma is optimistic.
“We’re playing all right. I’m not ecstatic, we have a lot of growing and improving, but we’re getting there,” he said. “We’re really young, mostly sophomores on the team, but we’ve won the games we needed to win, and that’s the most important thing in this part of the season.”
At press time, the Knights were 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the Catholic High School League Division 4.
Soma’s confidence about the season comes from the results last year. The Knights finished second in the division and only lost three players to graduation from that squad.
“Our sophomores were all contributors last year. For the next couple years, we should be a really solid team,” he said.
Shrine last won a CHSL title four years ago, which was its second straight.
“Every spring, when we start practicing in the gym, I point to the banner and tell them that it’s been x amount of years since we last won a title, and that these girls should be on there,” Soma said. “That’s our goal every year; we use that as motivation.”
Soma believes this squad is capable of returning to the top of the standings, though it has to mature quickly on the field.
“We’re young, so it’s a little bit of a progression. We’re not pushover, but it’s still a bunch of young kids on the team playing against seniors. … A couple years under your belt is always good in high school sports,” he said. “The problem with youth and inexperience is that you can go into a game and be a better team, but not always win. One or two games like that can cost you a league or a district championship.”
To his delight, Soma has seen his players take the steps needed to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“They have put in a real effort to play during the offseason,” he said. “The girls that are on the team this year are very committed to improving and growing as a team and players.”