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Waterford is picked to triumph in soccer

So what is it that makes a school with an enrollment of only 240able to compete in soccer against schools with two, three or even four times the number of students?

Besides getting talented players, according to Waterford coach Tim Dolbin, it is the attitude.

"A few years ago, we struggled even to field a team," he said. "Now, we are actually starting to get some depth. The players realize that we can play against good teams, and they like to take the challenge upon themselves. They realize they are a good team and want to compete at this level."

One player who makes Waterford a legitimate threat come playoff time is Nicole Taylor. As a freshman, Taylor put up some monstrous numbers. Her production fell off a bit last season, but the fact she was even playing was a near miracle. She had vertebrae fused in a major back surgery.

"So for her to even be on the field was amazing," Dolbin said. "You could really see as the year went on and she became healthier she was returning to form."

Taylor entered this year with a hip-flexor but is slowly recovering from that as well. When she is healthy, her coach would not trade her for any player in the state.

"She is the whole package, not just offensive or defensive, or a scorer or a passer, but she can do it all," Dolbin said. "She plays with both feet, and probably the best thing about her is she is coachable and never needs to be motivated in practice." She sets a great example of how a player should play and practice. After her high school career is over, I think she will be a Division-I player at the next level."

Besides the central midfielder necessary to be successful, Waterford also boasts a goal-scoring threat that other teams need to key on.

"Jesse Sorenson can score," Dolbin said. "She is a great complement to Nicole. She scored quite a bit last year, and she has only gotten better. With the two of them at the top of their games, I could see us doing well."

Annie Judd and Mary Broadhead are experienced and talented and will help the Ravens in their quest to become region champions. But winning the league title is not the only thing on this team's mind.

"We want to go through the league undefeated," Dolbin said. "I think we can do that this year. Sure we will have to play our best, but we think it's possible. After that, we want to advance farther in the playoffs than any girls team has ever done from this school."

Region 14 soccer

(Listed in order of finish predicted by coaches)

1. WATERFORD: With a player such as Nicole Taylor in the middle distributing, defending and attacking, the Ravens could have a very good season. Taylor will get plenty of help from Jesse Sorenson and Annie Judd in the attack, and Mary Broadhead spearheads a stout defense from her sweeper position. Coach Tim Dolbin played a tough preseason against some 4A and 5A schools to get his team ready for the playoffs. LAST SEASON: 12-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round.

2. ROWLAND HALL: Coach Bobby Kennedy will have to have many of his players participate in both the varsity and the junior varsity games this season. He has only 16 total players for the two teams. There is some talent on the Winged Lions. Victoria Heagy is a goal-scoring threat while Liz Elliot controls the middle. Alex Jacobs is a tough defender who can keep the team close. LAST SEASON: 8-8. PLAYOFFS: Missed.

3. MILLARD: The Eagles have some extra motivation this season. With the realignment that took place, Region 14 was given three playoff spots, and Millard is in position to challenge for one of those. Valerie Ortega, Loraina Aleman and Kylie Labrum all have the ability to put the ball in the back of the net. It will be a matter of whether coach George Richardson and his staff can put together a defense strong enough to propel the team to the playoffs. LAST SEASON: 5-7-1. PLAYOFFS: Missed.

4. ST. JOSEPH: The Jayhawks have reason to believe with players such as Jena Lovato and Abbie Keyes leading the offensive push, and they have a legitimate goalkeeper in Megan Dilland who has the ability to shut out teams from the net. They play on one of the nicest fields in the state, and should be able to use that to a homefield advantage for some extra wins. LAST SEASON: 4-11. PLAYOFFS: Missed.

5. SOUTH SUMMIT: Katie Naff, Kalli Herbert, Mandy Lee, Rachel Julkuhen and Sarah Lambert are all showing that they are capable of scoring goals this season. The Wildcats have already tripled their win total of a season ago, and they appear to be heading in the right direction. Expect a better year from them. LAST SEASON: 1-12-2. PLAYOFFS: Missed.