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Booters return stronger, healthier

Front Row L-R: Taylor Healy, Ellen Saville, Heather Lafnear, Sara Ruch, Joselyne Villagomez Second Row L-R: Marina Ibarra, Samantha Medici, Sara Neiboer, Paige Brinker, Laura Peterson, Alana Carroll, Alex Anderson Third Row L-R: Coach Bernard Kanjoma, Emma G. Richmond, Tammy Toteff, Sarah Stroope, Amanda Roth, Beth Downs, Head Coach Larry Ferris (click for larger version)
March 30, 2011 - After the varsity girls soccer team suffered through constant injuries last year, head coach Larry Ferris knew he had to improve his team's strength and conditioning in the off-season in order for his team to get better.

Getting the girls off of running on hardwood floors and into the gym, Ferris sees a much healthier team headed into the 2011 season, with the lone exception to the injury bug being junior midfielder Heather Lafnear, who injured her knee before the season began.

"What I wanted to make sure was their whole entire core was strong, not just their legs," Ferris said. "I think we are really prepared this year, more so than compared to last year," Ferris added.

He said his girls felt the off-season training was more purposeful than previous years.

"They really loved it...they felt better about their conditioning. They felt they were in better shape, and they are in better shape," Ferris said.

Ferris is hoping the off-season conditioning can improve his team's stamina and keep them from slowing down in the latter stages of the second half of a game.

"They will be able to go that final 10 minutes and be a lot stronger and hopefully finish off and have that 10 minutes of long-lasting power that you don't have at the end of the game," he said.

This season the girls find themselves battling opponents in the Oakland Activities White Division, which includes Birmingham Groves, Bloomfield Hills Andover, Clarkston, Farmington, Farmington Hills Harrison, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Pontiac, Royal Oak and West Bloomfield.

If they can stay healthy, Ferris thinks his girls have a good chance to be competitive in the division.

Last year they beat OAA red opponent Bloomfield Hills Lahser 3-2, tied Groves, lost 1-0 to Clarkston with a depleted lineup and lost 2-1 to Royal Oak. "I keep telling them the OAA is bigger and stronger, but we are faster and bigger and stronger and we will be fine. I think the girls are really up for it," he said.

Ferris sees the potential for a strong winning season, with the Wildcats in the mix for a division title at season's end.

"Every game we play, we have to learn from and get better," he said. "Correct the mistakes, see where we have to add to get to that final run at the end of the year."

Helping lead the way for the Wildcats will be senior captains Amanda Roth, Beth Downs and Sarah Stroope.

"I am going to hate to lose those girls," Ferris said. "They have shown really strong leadership this year from day one when I named them captains. They just right away took charge by their example, by their play and leadership on the field."

Ferris noted they also took command of the team when it came to off-field issues as well. "All three are dynamic players. I can see them playing college ball...they are strong leaders and they are leading on the field for me," Ferris said.

In addition to Roth, Downs and Stroope, Ferris is looking for juniors Brianna and Chelsea Johnson, Paige Brinker, Ellen Saville and sophomores Marina Ibarra, Emma Richmond and Alana Carroll to help shoulder the offensive and defensive load for the team.

"They are definitely studs and standouts for next year's varsity team," he said.

Freshman Samantha Medici made the team this season, and in Ferris' opinion is a four year varsity player, if she can stay healthy.

Ferris will also welcome back senior Sara Nieboer, who ran varsity track last season. "She is an athlete, she is very fast and her touch on the ball is improving every day," he added.

"I have a very good, complete team of players," he said. "Technically, skill wise on the ball we are very good. I think we are balanced on attack, midfielders and forwards and we have good replacement girls to come in and fill that void on defense."

The Wildcats were supposed to participate in the Lake Orion Tournament at Lake Orion High School on Saturday, March 26, but the tournament was cancelled due to the field conditions. They will play at Groves on Tuesday, March 29.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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