Sailors aim to keep winning with new coach

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— Pursuit of Excellence is written in Latin on the sleeves of the practice jerseys worn by the Steamboat Springs girls soccer team.

The phrase has come from the boys team, along with its coach, Rob Bohlmann.

While the Sailors are adapting to the major changes of a new coach and the absence of five starters from last year, they are also dealing with the minor ones of new systems and the words on practice jerseys.

After 12 years with the girls soccer program, Jim Dudley retired and Rob Bohlmann expanded his coaching duties to include both the girls and boys soccer teams.

He takes over a girls team that has changed a lot of personnel after two years with basically the same squad.

"The last two years in a row we kept the same team," senior Julie Wernig said. "We did lose some key seniors, but I think we have some good people to step it up."

Six starters are coming back from the team that went 14-2-1 last year and advanced to the quarterfinals of the state tournament, where it lost to Broomfield 1-0 in a sudden death overtime shootout.

The backfield is again a strength for the Sailors with seniors Lia Utu and Kelly Asbury. The duo was part of a stellar defense that went 10-0 in league play, outscoring its Western Slope opponents 52-1.

As a junior, Utu was named the league's player of the year and was selected first-team all-state. Asbury, a goalie who recorded 12 shutouts last season, was named honorable mention all-state.

With the return of an experienced goalie and Utu at center back, Bohlmann expects his seniors to lead and organize the backfield.

Dudley, the team's former coach, said having Asbury back is key.

"She's a really important part of the team," said Dudley, who still attends some practices to help when he can. "Having her back gives us some experience and someone talking back there."

The Sailors suffered most of their losses in the midfield with the graduation of Jessica Fritz, Jessica Johnson and Bernadette Norman.

Wernig and Nikki Garth are expected to bring stability to the midfield. Last season, Garth was named all-conference and Wernig was honorable mention.

With Andrea Len as the lone returning starter to play up top and the loss of dominant attacker Liz Masterson, the forward line also took a blow during graduation.

Assistant coach Danny Trebbenkamp said the Sailors will miss the scoring power of Masterson, an all-conference and all-state selection last year.

"Liz Masterson was the go-to girl. She made things happen. I think that's the biggest hole we would like to fill," Trebbenkamp said.

Looking to help out the attack will be Cassidy Kurtz. An all-conference defender last year, Kurtz will shift to the front lines.

Bohlmann said returning starters of Utu, Asbury, Wernig, Kurtz, Arithson and Garth give the field a balanced mix of experience. And, Bohlmann also likes the overall talent shown by his 19 players.

"Right now this group is going to be a very good mix of blue collar and white collar effort," he said. "Some players have very strong mental and physical skills and are very hard workers, very determined. And then we have the players that are very skilled, technical and tactical. Mixing those together brings a nice product. We want the blue collar to rub off on the white collar and the white collar to mix with blue collar."

The Sailors are also expecting a more balanced league this year with Rifle and Glenwood Springs returning the majority of last year's starters. But the Sailors' toughest games are expected to come from outside the league as they go up against some of the state's top 4A and 5A schools.

After winter weather postponed last weekend's game against Broomfield to May, Steamboat opened season play this weekend at the Littleton Tournament where they went up against Littleton, Boulder and Standley Lake.

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