BOUNTIFUL — Bountiful High's girls soccer players and coaches literally get kicks — and wins — for what they do.
For the 15-year Braves' program, all the tutoring has been under Dave Wigham. Only four other current Utah high school coaches can claim this tenure, he says, including 16-year Woods Cross girls coach Kevin Rigby.
When Wigham began building the program from scratch, he remembers, "We had only two girls who played competitive soccer. Now, we're cutting girls" from the team who've played for years. He says the Braves are now "18-20 deep" every year.
The coach said his four captains — seniors Robyn Wall, Carly Haycock, Lauren Ridling and junior Christine Quinn — are not only leaders, but very talented. Others also have talent, leaving Wigham with depth and looking forward to strong team chemistry this season.
The Braves lost in 2004's state semifinals to Woods Cross.
Starting sophomore goalie Molly Merrill was Bountiful's first all-stater as a freshman, said Wigham. He said he is really counting on her in 2005. He doesn't know how many saves she had, but, "The only stat I care about is that she stops more than she doesn't."
Merrill is special, the coach said, because he's never had a high school goalie start for four consecutive seasons.
Wigham doesn't judge his program on how many region championships its won, but rather on its four state titles. "It's never been our goal to just win region," he said, adding only Bountiful's 1995 region crown was won during championship years. The Braves have made the finals seven times.
Bountiful's girls soccer is so outstanding, Wigham said, that the first five years of his tenure yielded an amazing 80 percent success rate. During the last 10 years, he estimates the team has won at least a whopping 85 percent of its games. But he's not taking the credit.
"It's a tribute to the youth program around here, as much as anything," he said. "The South Davis Soccer League and coaches do a tremendous job."
According to league board chairman Richard Messenger, the program provides recreational players with extra training "to get a mind-set to play soccer."
This approach has apparently led to continued success into high school. With success come fond recollections, both on and off the field.
Wigham's fondest memories center on his relationships with players, past and present. "I go to (former players') wedding receptions all the time," he said. "We keep in contact quite a bit."
Among current team members, the coach seeks to inspire sisterhood with group activities, such as bowling. "Through the years, we've had characters (on the team)" and enjoyed laughing. "I really enjoy having fun with them and being around them."
Playing soccer is important, said Wigham, but it's not an end in itself. Besides playing hard and seeking to improve, "We just have fun — it's not life and death — which is our No. 1 goal."
When it comes to No. 1, Bountiful has 14 of them, as in number of consecutive years it's sent a player to an NCAA Division 1 program. In all, the Braves have seen 24 players advance to Division 1, with 13 more to junior college.
"Most stay around here," said Wigham. "They're homebodies." Dixie College, where the Braves have their soccer camp every summer, as well as Utah State, the University of Utah, Weber State, BYU, Idaho State and Washington have all been benefactors of Bountiful soccer.
Perhaps the best player in Bountiful history is Caroline Putz, a two-time Parade magazine All-American (1995-96) and the only Utahn to play in (and score) during a national women's game. Putz was a junior when the Braves took state in 1995 and recently interned with Real Salt Lake.