High expectations for veteran Eagles
Twelve players for first-year varsity coach Aaron Wood got significant playing time last year and they return after a 7-7-2 season and a loss to West Rutland in the Division IV quarterfinals.
"I think we've looked pretty good so far," said Wood, who co-coached last season with his father, Dan. "It's the beginning of the year, so we still have a long way to go, we can get better."
Sophomore Tess Belnap is coming off a good season, but one that she was injured in and was put on a strict time restriction as to how much she could go when she returned. Gracie Smith dealt with the same restriction after a back injury.
"Both are coming back from injuries, but this year, there are none of [the restrictions], so I expect them to step up even more," Wood said. "Tess is the best player in the state for our division."
The Eagles are expected to be strong up the middle as well, including Aimee Frank, Jamie Keel and Smith, along with sophomore Lila Ward and goalie Shaana Staab.
"Lila is as good as a defender as anyone in our league, and I think Shaana is the best goalie in our division," Wood said.
Even the new players aren't completely foreign to the varsity game. Amiah Olson is a freshman who got some time last season as an eighth-grader. In 2017, she'll play either in the outside midfield or as an outside back.
"She'll need to step up, she's going to be the first one coming of the bench," Wood said. "I expect her to do big things."
As his career is just starting, Wood said he's leaned on a trio of coaches: his dad, Dan; legendary Arlington boys coach John Werner and Twin Valley's Buddy Hayford, the winningest boys soccer coach in state history.
In the end, the experience should win out.
"We have a lot of experience, maybe the most anywhere," Wood said. "I have high expectations for the girls, I think this is a group that if you ask them what their goal is, it's to win the Division IV championship. Not just to go to states, to win the championship. With a program like Arlington's, the goal should be to win a state championship."
Wood said he feels the biggest threat to their chances comes from a nemesis in Proctor. The Phantoms have won the last four D-IV titles and have made the championship six straight seasons.
"I tell the kids, as far as Division IV goes, I think we're the best 11-person squad out there, but having said that, Proctor's won four straight. We can't just talk about it, we have to go and take it," Wood said.
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