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New coach pushes soccer girls to succeed

by Jody Houle
Contributing Writer - Berlin Reporter

New Berlin High School girls' varsity soccer coach, Rhiannon Cruz (second row, left) pushes the team to succeed on and off the field. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
September 11, 2017
BERLIN – The new Berlin High School girls' varsity soccer coach aims to instill tools for success on and off the field.

In her first year as head coach for the girls' soccer team, Rhiannon Cruz hopes to expand her coaching opportunities, she said.

She has previously coached first time players ages 3-5 in North Conway. She started playing soccer at the tender age of 10 and played in all four years of high school in Catskill, N.Y.. She was drafted to the elite travel teams throughout her high school soccer career.

As the new coach, she has witnessed the skills of some of the top players.

"Luckily, I have many skilled players ranging from freshman to seniors," she said.

She spoke of senior Kiara Law-As, a returning player, who she said is one of the top defenders.

"I have no doubt that she would excel at any level as she holds the foundation of our defense together."

She noted another top defender, junior Allison Theriault, who is also a returning player who has "excellent endurance and touch."

"She reads the game very well and has great ball placement," said Cruz.

She mentioned sophomore center-mid Kailee Peare, who she said "has the most endurance I've seen yet."

"She has played 80 minute games with no substitutes. Her ball control is excellent. I can see her being a lead scorer."

Cruz said that starting striker Kailey Price, a senior, has footwork that "gets her past most defenders that she goes against."

Joslyn Lanteigne, a senior, "is an overall excellent athlete," said Cruz.

"Physically, she is equal parts fast and strong. I've yet to see an opponent defeat her in a foot race."

Cruz went on to mention some newcomers who bring promise to the field.

Becca Pouliot has big shoes to fill – she is a freshman who has joined the team as the goal keeper replacing former keeper Rylie Binette who graduated last year. Binette was fierce at stopping the ball.

"Becca has been an asset to our team," said Cruz.

"As a new goalie, it's hard to adjust to the demands of a new position let alone going from middle school soccer straight to Varsity. She has earned the respect of her teammates from day one. I have no doubt that she will only continue to excel in her position."

Another newcomer is freshman Kyra Woodward who Cruz said "is our wall on defense."

"She had to step up and play stopper due to a senior being injured in the beginning of the season and we are all extremely impressed with her performance. She has dominated that position so far this year."

Cruz noted new player Grace Bradley, a freshman striker and midfielder.

"Grace is small, but she's fierce. She holds her own on the field and consistently makes great give-and-go plays with the outside wings. Grace is eager to improve her skills. She works hard in practice and always asks for recommendations on how to advance."

Another newcomer, Bianca Price, a freshman, "works extremely hard on the field and has great sportsmanship" said Cruz.

"Bianca does well on the outside wing position and works hard to help out on defense when needed."

When asked about the strengths of the team, Cruz said "all of the girls are extremely ambitious and work to keep each other focused and motivated."

'Summer Bradley, a senior, is vigilant about making sure each underclassmen knows that they have an upperclassmen to go to for help anytime," she said. "The girls treat the team as a whole like a sisterhood.

"They constantly have team bonding events, which makes them tighter as a unit off the field as well as on the field. I've never seen a group of girls who care so much about each other and who take every recommendation for improvement so seriously, they're really a great group of girls."

As far as weaknesses, Cruz mentioned conditioning.

"Some of the girls need to catch up to others in terms of how long they can last in a game, but they have already vastly improved on that since preseason began."

Another weakness, she noted, was talking more on the field, "which comes with more experience."

"We have a lot of newcomers to the team and a lot of girls who aren't used to playing together, but, again, it has already improved since we began the season," Cruz said.

Cruz summed up her philosophy and hopes for the girls, "I want the students to have a love for the game as I do," she encouraged.

"I hope they take the structure that we instill in them for practices and use it in their everyday life. Some of the things we strive for is to never give up. There are games where we are losing 3-0 and I want to see those girls playing as if its 0-0 in overtime. I want to see them playing with heart. Another thing we like to push is that physical pain is only temporary when it comes to conditioning and it will make you stronger in the end. Most of these girls are three sport athletes so if they can make fitness and endurance a part of their lifestyle, it will only benefit themselves and their teammates year round. One of our sayings is 'you can do anything for __ minutes,' which gets them motivated reminding them it's only a short period of time and that they can and will succeed in finishing."

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