First-year Eagle River head girls soccer coach Lauren Mason means business.
"We may not win a game all year, but we will learn to play the right way," said Mason, who played college soccer at Purdue and now teaches social studies at the school.
Mason said her goal is to build a top-notch program at Eagle River that can compete on the conference and state levels.
"Ultimately that's what it has to be about," she said.
Just 23 players showed up for tryouts this year, although Mason said that number will swell once those who return from a French Club trip to Europe become eligible.
Of that group, Mason said she's got about 13 or 14 core players with true soccer skills.
"The other half have a little catching up to do," she said.
A big bright spot for the Wolves is expected to be senior midfielder Rebecca Boggs, who was sidelined with a knee injury last season. Boggs, who will play college soccer for the University of Colorado in the fall, leads a team that also includes junior goalie Kelsey Reeves.
"She's a solid goalkeeper, which is always nice to have," she said.
Also back is junior Jackie Klecka, an attacking center midfielder, and Megan Byman, a junior back.
"We'll be pretty solid through the center," said Mason, who said she plans to run a 4-5-1 system.
Mason said her biggest concern in the early going will be the team's fitness, which she said wasn't as good as it could have been when practice began.
"We'll be pretty solid for the first 15 minutes and then I think our fitness is going to show," she said.
The Wolves are the first local team to hit the pitch this season, opening things up with a game against West on March 21 at 4:40 p.m at The Dome.
At least early in the season, Mason said she plans to concentrate heavily on training her team to play fundamentally sound, letting the fitness issues take care of themselves over the first couple weeks of the season.
"If they're playing those games the way they should be playing, they'll get fit in that way," she said.
If the Wolves can overcome their early conditioning shortcomings, she said, they'll have a chance.
"We'll have to make strides to be technically better," she said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 694-2727 ext. 215
This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, March 17, 2011.