By Barrett Neale
It's not easy to go from a one-win season to a championship within a few short months, but that's exactly what one local girls' soccer team did.
The Westminster Soccer Association girls' U13 Riptide soccer squad is in its second year playing together as a travel team. Everyone on the roster had played only in recreational leagues before, but the girls adapted to the new league and improved quickly.
|Front row: Lindsey Campbell, Briana Bush, Jordan Fogle, Corinne Corsaro, Dana Byron, Erica Neumeister, Ellie Johnson, Kayla Sherfey. Second row: Jeanine Kent, Savannah Cesenaro, Hailey Bozzell, Carsen Delmont, Aleena Griffith, Sydney Popielski, Ally Resh, Margaret Akey, Taylor Morgan, Hannah Boone. Back row: Assistant coach Doug Fogle, head coach Carl Delmont, assistant coach Nick Seitler.
Not pictured: Assistant coach Steve Cesenaro, Olivia Kohr
Coach Carl Delmont said his team was at a disadvantage, because many of its opponents had been playing together for four or five years and also came from areas where there was heavy soccer interest. In Westminster, he said, they are fortunate to have enough players to form a full squad.
"We actually had to pick up a bunch of younger kids just to have enough to have a roster, because we kind of started late," Delmont said. "… We took them together and said: 'Look, girls, we probably won't have a winning record, but if you stay with us for a whole year, we're going to teach you. You're going to get better. We're going to build a team.' "
Playing in the 2011 fall league, the Riptide won one game, but in the 2012 spring league, the team finished in first place. This fall, the Riptide ended the season one win short of second place. They won two of the five tournaments they played in and finished in the top five in the other three.
"It's really rewarding to see how far they've come in just a short period of time," Delmont said. "I guess one of the greatest compliments is when the more successful teams we play have a hard time beating us or don't beat us, and the coaches come up and say: 'We heard you guys were a new team. You guys are really good.' "
Delmont, the CEO of Freedmont Mortgage, has played soccer since he was 6 years old and coached his two daughters' rec soccer teams for about five years, with a couple of undefeated seasons.
In 2011, he decided to leave rec-league coaching and start a travel team. A coach he had faced in rec-league play, Steve Cesenaro, is one of his assistant coaches, and each has a daughter on the team -- Carsen Delmont and Savannah Cesenaro. Delmont said Cesenaro often acted as a co-head coach, and their different qualities as coaches complemented each other.
"Over the five years [in rec], he and I combined probably only had about seven losses," Delmont said. "We were pretty used to winning. Last year was a challenge, taking these girls and bringing them to the next level, because rec soccer and travel soccer are so different."
Travel soccer is a year-round commitment. Between the fall and spring seasons, the Riptide play indoor soccer in a futsal league. During the fall, Delmont holds practice two days per week, and said he tried to practice that often during the spring as well, although sometimes players had to miss practices if they were involved with spring sports such as lacrosse or softball.
Delmont said he didn't push players to quit other sports, because he thought it was important for them to be well rounded. But he did say it was rewarding when soccer went from being a player's third-, fourth- or fifth-favorite sport to her favorite.
"We are seeing some kids gravitate from the other sports and wanting to play soccer year round," Delmont said, "which is kind of a cool thing. Our goal now is to get them ready for high school."
The Riptide players are currently in seventh grade, and Delmont said he had already heard from high school coaches who wanted to come to practices next year to see what kind of talent these girls have.
"I want to see them play at a higher level," Delmont said. "I'm pretty sure that some of these girls initially came on because they thought: 'OK, that's kind of cool. I guess I'll do that.' I think now they really, really love the game."
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Issue 180: December 2012