With a year under her belt as head coach of the Yosemite High girls soccer team and a solid group of returning players, Natalie Cooks is optimistic about the upcoming season.
Last year's team was 8-13-2 overall and 5-4-1 in the North Sequoia League.
"This is our second season with the girls ... last year was a transition year for the girls soccer program with all new coaches," Cooks said. "Even though we lost nine seniors to graduation last year, we are now familiar with the girls and our competition. We hope to accomplish more this year. We have a solid group of girls who are committed to this program."
Cooks is a 2001 graduate of Yosemite High and played soccer for YHS, Fresno City College, Fresno State and Vanguard University.
Returning seniors Amelia English, Daphne Norman, Kathryn Tovar, Melissa Garza, Katrina Borough and junior Regan Samora are the "glue" that keeps the team together on and off the field. They are good girls who not only excel in soccer, but in the classroom as well.
So far we have had a healthy team that survived our conditioning period and are now ready to compete.
Daphne Norman, who earned first team All-League honors last year, is a key to the Badger's offense. She's dominating on the field and always manages to create opportunities to score. We are looking forward to having Amelia English back this year after suffering a knee injury during regular season last year. She will play on the left side where she can attack with speed and use her great ball skills.
Central to our team is our center midfielder Melissa Garza. She makes good decisions and keeps the team playing as a unit. Junior sweeper Regan Samora who earned second team All-League last year as a sophomore is a tough, consistent defender with a great foot.
Kathryn Tovar, who also earned 2nd team all-league, is another excellent defender, but can play any position successfully. Her versatility allows the team to rely on her to fill weak spots.
We also have two dependable goal keepers who always have the teams back, senior Katrina Borough and sophomore Christen Cogdell. Other players key to our teams success are seniors Ciara Debock, Brittany West and Karli Sitton; juniors Mariah Lincoln, Zoe Powell, Kiersten Riggs and Hannah McMechan,and sophomore Kelsi Steile and freshman Brooklynn Bragden.
The JV team has several returning sophomores and many new freshman. They have been working hard at developing ball skills, improving their endurance and learning to play together.
Vanessa Jasper returns as head coach of the JV team. Also a YHS alum, class of 1998, Jasper has her bachelors degree in Kinesiology and played soccer for Allan Hancock College.
McKenzie Cox, a third coach who graduated from YHS, class of 2002, returns as assistant coach and helps with the goal keepers.
The varsity teams lost 2-0 at home to Madera High on Nov. 20, after being tied 0-0 at half.
"Except for a few small mistakes defensively, I was pleased with our performance," Cooks said. "The team played well considering it was our first game of the season and the team has many new players."
The Madera JV team beat Yosemite 4-1, with Maya Mendonca scoring for the Badgers.
The teams play at Madera South Friday, at Hoover High Dec. 4 and at McLane Dec. 6. The teams are home Wednesday, Dec. 12 against Caruthers. The JV game starts at 5 p.m., varsity 6:30 p.m.
The boys and girls soccer teams hosted alumni fundraisinggames and a barbecue lunch on Nov. 24. Alumni returning to play in the men's game included Daniel Nehf, Jesse Newitt, Bobby Moore, Matt Ruddock, Adam Cox, Arthur Hernandez, Gary Hernandez, Justin Kahler,Taylor Samora, Mitchell Friesen, Roman Morales and Domonic Estrada.
Women returning to play included Marie Reid, Jenna Brosi, Jaimie Vogel, Madison Samora, Katelund McCall, Riley Cooks, Vanessa Magee, Hayley Elrod, Taryn Tompkins, Olivia Tovar, Mo Springer, Jessica Rybaczyk, Cindy Quintana, Colleen Warmerdam, Aubrie Avina, Elsa Mueller and current YHS coaches McKenzie Cox, Vanessa Jasper and Natalie Cooks.
The games featured alumni playing alumni. There were enough women to play an all women game. A second co-ed game with the alumni men was then played. The games had the "older" alumni playing the "younger" alumni. The younger teams won both game, although they were close.
"We had several alumni and families make donations to the program and we are very grateful for their support," Cooks said.