Regularly reliant on since-graduated playmaker Savannah Kaufmann in 2018, success for Bayfield High School girls soccer in 2019 will have to come from its less-lauded playmakers, as the team will seek to qualify for a ninth Colorado High School Activities Association Class 3A state tournament since 2010.
“While we’re young, I think we have a lot of talent,” said BHS head coach Jen Moore going into her 13th season at BHS with a 92-43-8 record this decade alone. “I’ve got a really strong group of sophomores with a lot of potential, and we actually have several freshmen who’ve got some experience and who are probably going to see the varsity field a little bit this year.
“I’m excited about it. We’ve got, I think, 28 or 29 girls, so we should definitely have varsity and JV. We have three seniors, four or five juniors, and the rest are freshmen and sophomores, so we’re young.”
Having graduated three seniors in forward Kaufmann and midfielders Sophie Turner and Misty Helton – a First Team All-3A/2A Southwestern League trio which combined for 36 goals and 19 assists last season – BHS will kick off the new spring with just three returning seniors in Peri Milner, Sarah Ruybal and Caibri Schaefer.
“We still have a very young team,” said Milner, “but our chemistry has gotten incredibly better and I am expecting a lot of wins in our future.”
Moore said the trio of seniors has shown great attitudes and leadership during the first two weeks of practice.
“They’re not, like, a ‘standout’ like Savannah, but girls look up to them, so I’m just expecting a lot of them as far as providing leadership on the field,” Moore said. “They’re willing to work hard; they’re coming to all the extra stuff.”
And there’s been plenty of that at BHS, pretty much since a season-ending 3-0 road loss at Colorado Springs St. Mary’s in the state tournament’s opening round.
“I’ve got lots of girls coming in early in the morning to get extra help,” Moore said. “I’ve got girls coming in during lunch to watch film, and then there’s two hours of practice after school, so just the fact that I’ve got so many girls so excited to play is a great sign. Hopefully, they keep it up all season.
“I think transitioning from relying on a Savannah Kaufmann to score all of our goals is going to be huge; it opens up opportunities for a lot more girls to score goals, and opens up more of a possession game. I’m actually looking forward to that because I hate the kick-the-ball-and-hopefully-someone-can-run-onto-it game. But that was what worked with the players that we had, and now hopefully with a whole-new set of players and not relying on a Savannah to run after the ball, we’ll play more like a team.”
Primed for a special season will be sophomore Halle Loveday, who had seven goals and five assists as a freshman, while juniors Tayler Ludwig and Malaree Matlock and sophomores Brooke Merchant, Madison Wells and Cayanne Carlson should also help in building upon last year’s work, which collectively helped Bayfield improve from 5-10-0 overall in 2017 to 8-7-1.
Junior Lana McKee returns as the Wolverines’ primary goalkeeper but will likely not see the pitch during BHS’ season-opening action at 3 p.m. Friday at Salida and 10 a.m. Saturday versus Buena Vista. Both non-league contests will be played inside Salida’s Spartan Stadium.
“I have three goalies, but two of them have hand injuries,” said Moore. “One of them is Lana, so hopefully she heals up in the next week or two. Right now, we’re going to be relying on sophomore Jaden Cooper, who’s super-excited, super-nervous, but she’s not afraid.
“It’s just going to be a matter of getting some varsity experience and learning about her team and about the game. We believe in her, and hopefully she believes in herself because we’re counting on her.”
And all things considered, Moore’s biggest concern prior to sending out her first starting 11 in 2019 has not been replacing Kaufmann, an abundance of youth, nor even preparing last year’s backup goalie for a hastened varsity debut. Rather, it’s how effects of Mother Nature’s recent wintry wrath that pushed practices indoors will present themselves.
“I see that as the big obstacle,” said Moore. “We’re going to go play Salida and Buena Vista this weekend without ever having touched grass.”