Young team presses ahead

Published 10:53 pm Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Forward Danielle Stauffer charges down field against the Virginia Beach Friends School. First Baptist won the game 5-0.

By Titus Mohler
Correspondent

After a championship-winning season last year, the First Baptist Christian School varsity girl’s soccer team is finding the road to another Seven Cities crown to be quite difficult.

“We left last season where we had a real rocky season, only won a couple games, and then we won the championship,” head coach Stacy Pauley said. “We turned it around there at the tail end, and the girls beat the first-place team and then came in and played the second tournament game and won that, as well. And that was the first time First Baptist had ever won a soccer championship.”

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Pauley had hoped the team would be able to pick up where it had left off, but this season has had a rocky start of its own. As of the beginning of the week, the varsity was 2-4 and the JV team was 4-1. The success of both teams is distinctly intertwined.

Similar to the school’s baseball program, the varsity and JV programs merged because of lack of players. Some games on the schedule are JV-only, meaning the younger players get to play, and some games are varsity-only, in which the upperclassmen are featured. A significant group of players in the middle of the age range get to play in both.

The Lady Crusaders redefine the word “young.”

“We had talked a couple different times (about) whether (the athletic director) was going to have JV be separate and varsity be separate,” Pauley said, “but we didn’t have enough, because we only have one senior and one junior and then (everyone) else is 10th (grade) and below. The majority of the girls are, I would say, eighth to fifth (grade).”

This means younger players have to grow up quickly on the field in a way that redefines “quickly,” and yet Pauley has players that have risen to the occasion.

“I have a fifth-grader, Taylor Wentzel, number 23. I’ve pulled her up to varsity,” Pauley said. “She plays my left wing on defense during the varsity games.”

Another young player who has quickly matured into a star is seventh-grade right mid-fielder Vivian Waddell.

“It was like a total change from last year to this year,” Pauley said. “She stepped it up that much. She stands out.”

Though a recent injury has her temporarily sidelined, eighth-grade center mid-fielder Madison Heard has been a valuable contributor because of her well-rounded skills.

“She got hurt at (last) Tuesday’s game, tore some ligaments, and then is now in crutches,” Pauley said. “She was another one of those versatile players I could play anywhere.”

The other particularly versatile players that Pauley had highlighted were freshman forward Zoe Waddell and Pauley’s daughter, junior center defender Danielle Stauffer. Both Waddell and Stauffer can play any position on the field.

Currently, the greatest offensive force on the team has been sophomore forward Anna Carr.

“I can play her either right/center mid or I can play her up top, but she, right now, has been my top scorer,” Pauley said.

In terms of areas designated for improvement, Pauley mentioned a need for the girls to grow in their trust of one another on the field so they do not stray from their position to try doing someone else’s job.

Despite the lingering trust issues, the girls have begun to gel as a team. Between the varsity and JV teams, the Lady Crusaders started the season 0-4, but they have now won five of their last six, and Pauley sees the potential for déjà vu.

“I would hope that we can win the championship again,” Pauley said. “I know in my heart that these girls can do it.”