Woodside girls' soccer team starts fresh without stars

Coming off a year in which they dominated the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division and advanced to the Central Coast Section Division I semifinals, the Woodside girls’ soccer team is hoping to repeat that success this season.

Winning became second nature to the Wildcats last season, as they finished with a 19-1-3 overall record, and undefeated mark in league play (12-0-2).

However, with a very young and inexperienced squad, the success they encountered last year will not come nearly as easy after losing six starters; two of them to Pac-10 Conference schools.

Emily Kruger, arguably the league’s best goaltender, graduated and received a scholarship to play at Cal, where she saw significant playing time as a freshman. She posted 11 shutouts in 18 starts and only gave up seven goals all season. The Wildcats also lost their leading scorer in Chelsea Braun (UCLA), who tallied 16 goals and 16 assists in her final season at Woodside.

“They were the foundation of last year’s team,” Wildcats coach Jose Navarrete said when asked about the loss of his two star players. “Losing them, along with four other starters from last year, will be tough to overcome, however I feel that we do have the necessary pieces to start rebuilding.”

Gone with Kruger and Braun are not only Division I talent, but leadership as well.

“The leadership we lost with last year’s seniors is irreplaceable,” Navarrete said.

In order to be successful this year, senior Taylor Duffner will need to return to her all-league form from last year, when she was tied for the team lead in goals.

One thing that Navarrete must do is find a way to remain patient. With the season his team had last year, it is easy to become accustomed to a high level of play. Navarrete knows his team will have a bull’s-eye on its back and will see the best effort from every team they match up against this season.

“Overall, we are a very young squad,” Navarrete said. “However, I do feel that once we overcome the growing pains, we do have the talent to stay in the upper half of the league, and after losing six starters, that’s all I can really ask for.”

Woodside is off to a 1-1 start in nonleague play this season, defeating cross-town rival Sequoia 4-0 in its victory. League play begins Jan. 4, when the Wildcats matchup against last year’s PAL runner-up Aragon.

Woodside breakdown

COACH: Jose Navarrete
RECORD: 1-1
2009 RECORD: 19-1-3 overall, 12-0-2 PAL Bay Division
LEAGUE OPENER: vs. Aragon, Jan. 4
NOTES: Woodside lost in the CCS semifinals to Palo Alto on penalty kicks last season. … Woodside lost six starters from last season, including two to Pac-10 schools in Emily Kruger (Cal) and Chelsea Braun (UCLA).

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