Thunder Mountain High School boys soccer coach Tim Lewis leads his players through a team practice Wednesday at TMHS.

Thunder Mountain High School boys soccer coach Tim Lewis leads his players through a team practice Wednesday at TMHS.

Falcons soccer takes flight

Though still building a program to compete on a statewide level, Thunder Mountain High School’s girls and boys soccer teams feel they’re building momentum this season.

The TMHS girls soccer program opened their regular season with a 0-2 loss and a 1-1 tie at Ketchikan High School last weekend. They face Juneau-Douglas High School this weekend at 8 p.m. Friday at Adair-Kennedy.

The Falcons boys started their season last weekend with 0-6 and 0-7 losses to JDHS.

Both programs are stronger than last year and feature a glut of young talent. Coupling their underclassmen with returning experience, both Falcons squads feel poised to launch to the next level.

Girls team builds

chemistry

The Falcons girls soccer program includes only four seniors this year, but with 36 girls on JV and varsity, their younger players will be called upon for varsity caps.

“We’ve lost a lot of our vital players but that’s given the new players an opportunity to come up,” senior midfielder Alana Bryson said. “We’re definitely learning to play together, learning our chemistry — it’s like starting over.”

Bryson added that, though the team may be young and inexperienced, they have the attitude to make big strides.

“I think our biggest strength is being coachable players. … A big key in finding a good soccer player is you have to be able to accept advice and try and change and become better,” Bryson said.

Said TMHS coach Kris Coffee: “It’s really exciting because we have a lot of young, upcoming players. We’re going to see a lot of freshmen and sophomores stepping it up and a lot of juniors taking leadership roles, which is great for the program.”

With such a young, malleable squad, coach John Newell saw an opportunity to implement some new passing schemes with his young players. Newell also stressed that every player seems to be on board with developing the Falcons’ team identity.

“Team chemistry is a huge thing, and these girls really seem to have it. … They’re starting to buy into these new passing patterns that we have that they haven’t seen before,” Newell said, referencing a focus on tight passing triangles and off-the-ball movement made famous in the Netherlands and more recently by the dominant FC Barcelona.

“Everyone would like to play like Barcelona, but not everyone has Lionel Messi on the team,” he said. “But our girls are getting there. They’re getting to where they’re moving the ball faster, passing quicker, and moving into position off the ball.”

Boys look to turn tide

TMHS’ boys soccer squad didn’t garner a win last year, but with some incoming club players hopes run high that they’ll produce some positive results this season.

Like the girls squad, coach Tim Lewis recognized his younger players will play a key role in turning the tide this year.

“Traditionally a lot of the club players go to (Juneau-Douglas High School),” he said. “This year we kind of had a 50-50 split of kids choosing TM over JD, so this is kind of new. The freshman class is a good class this year, they’re skilled and we’re going to have some freshmen playing varsity. There is a lot of talent, and not to say we haven’t had talent in the past, but we haven’t had a lot of players who have been playing organized soccer for a long time.”

Senior defender Ben Garrett can already see the potential in this year’s group.

“We’re a lot stronger than in previous years. … It seems like we’re getting a solid team together, a lot of good freshmen,” he said. “I am excited for sure, I just want to leave the team in a better place than it started. Our attitude is noticeably better. I’m optimistic,” Garret said.

Senior goalkeeper John Seymore described TMHS’ tactical strengths.

“We’re doing more conditioning this year, so we’re a little bit more fit than most teams. We plan to run,” he said, adding that their strength is “playing down our wings and getting crosses in; playing through our back line.”

TMHS plays their next game at home at 1:15 p.m. Friday, April 29, against Service.

• Contact Kevin Gullufsen at kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com.

Senior goalie John Seymour dives for a ball during Thunder Mountain High School boys soccer team practice Wednesday at TMHS.

Senior goalie John Seymour dives for a ball during Thunder Mountain High School boys soccer team practice Wednesday at TMHS.