GIRLS SOCCER PREVIEW '09: Reloaded Kentwood among North favorites again

  • BY Wire Service
  • Thursday, September 10, 2009 3:30pm
  • NewsSports
Megan Walburn

Megan Walburn

It has been almost a full year since the top-ranked Kentwood High girls soccer team dropped a 2-1 decision to unranked Shorewood in the state tournament opener.

It was Kentwood’s lone loss of the season. Understandably, remnants of frustration and heartbreak remain. But as tough as that was, especially for a group of girls who were expected to make it at least to the quarterfinals, the Conquerors are now using it for motivation as the new season unfolds.

“It was one of those unlucky games that happen,” said senior Rachel Bindl, who earned first-team all-league and all-state accolades on defense last season. “I guess we can now use it to inspire us to work harder to make sure it doesn’t happen again this year.”

While the Conquerors haven’t quite forgotten about the disappointment from a season that otherwise was wildly successful, they can look to this fall with hope. And when looking down Kentwood’s roster — one that is as talented as any before it — there’s plenty of reason for confidence.

Despite graduating seven starters, including two all-league picks, the Conquerors return five starters – six if you count their goalkeeping combination of Courtney Johnson and Megan Walburn.

“I don’t see any reason why we can’t challenge for the (South Puget Sound League North Division) title,” Kentwood coach Aaron Radford said. “The first key is getting them to believe they can play as good as previous teams. The state tournament is where our goals are and (the girls) want to achieve that goal.”

It’s a goal Kentwood has achieved in each of the last four years. However, the Conquerors have advanced past the first round just once during that span, that in 2006.

It hasn’t been for a lack of talent as Kentwood has been as loaded as any team in the state the last several seasons. But as Bindl put it, luck simply hasn’t been on Kentwood’s side, especially last year, when the Conquerors outshot Shorewood, 27-7, only to fall short on the scoreboard.

Part of the problem last year was the pressure of being top-ranked, second-team all-leaguer Kiana Kraft said.

“There was definitely a lot of pressure,” she said, “especially when we got toward the end of the season. … We just kind of fell apart.”

The Conquerors are determined not to have their season ended short this time around. And though the SPSL North remains as loaded as ever, Kentwood once again enters the season among the favorites, particularly with returning standouts Bindl, Kraft, Johnson, Walburn, Dana Wareham and Laura Moore back in fold.

“Our first task as a new team will be learning from last year,” Radford said. “Can we build off of those experiences? Can we find a way to learn from those uncomfortable situations?”

Only time will tell. But rest assured, the Conquerors will be plenty inspired to do so.

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