West Valley Preps
Kyle Pooler’s first girls soccer team at Liberty has picked up right where Peter Evans only team left off last winter.
The 2016-17 Lions peaked late in the season, beating eventual 5A runner up Phoenix Arcadia, then pushing the Titans in the quarterfinals before losing.
Tuesday night, the Lions were humming against another 2016-17 playoff team, district rival Kellis. Liberty (3-1, 1-0 regular season) controlled this road game, leading 2-0 and pulling away to win 4-1.
“They give me a ton of effort, and that’s the biggest thing. We’re able to rotate a lot of girls. I don’t feel like we fall too far off when we rotate girls in. I’m still learning them and they’re still learning me,” Pooler said.
For most of the first 20 minutes, the Cougars’ goal was under siege. While the chances were good, their efforts did not come into fruition until the ball pinball around in the box to the feet of senior midfielder Payton Younger.
She knocked it home with 17:13 left in the first half. Six minutes later, junior midfielder Brooke Schuster knocked home a free kick from the half circle right across the roof of the goal for a 2-0 halftime lead.
“That was something we talked about coming in. We knew their goalkeeper was a little shorter and we needed to get the ball on frame as many times as possible,” Pooler said.
Kellis also has a first-year coach in Lacey Perdomo. The Cougars are 0-2-1 early in the season, but the two losses have come against Arcadia and Liberty.
The new coach said she’s trying to blend a core of experienced club stars with younger players.
“We have a lot of senior returners that have been playing for all four years. They’re very experienced club players and some will go on to college,” Perdomo said. “We’re trying to fill those space with kids from the JV. We didn’t pick up any new freshmen and sophomores.”
Junior forward Maya Lorenzana broke away and buried her shot for a 3-0 lead with 17:09 remaining.
After providing the bulk of the Kellis offensive thrusts all night, senior forward Katrina Wetherell finished her own chance to cut the Lions lead to 3-1.
“Katrina is one of a kind. She’s a coach’s dream. But this was also a very good team we played. When we play teams where we can attack with the whole team,” Perdomo said.
But two minutes later, Lorenzana added a second goal to finish the 4-1 win.
Even early on, Pooler recognizes the junior as the linchpin of the attack.
“It’s really about how she can get free and how we can find her the ball. She does a great job. She had the assist to Payton tight away. She does a great job of getting the ball and bringing it back, and of finding the girls too. She’s not just a finisher,” Pooler said.