With new coach and system, Brighton soccer starting fresh
In the past decade, the Brighton girls soccer team has constructed the kind of legacy that most teams can only dream of.
The Bengals have averaged just over three losses a season. They've earned five state title game appearances and hoisted the Class 5A trophy twice.
It's all about numbers for the Bengals again this season as they embark on a new era under the direction of first-year coach Matt Stoker, a Brighton alumnus well aware of the Bengal soccer tradition.
But now, instead of marking success by wins and titles, the Bengals will gauge their success in more measurable goals: an offense that produces 15 to 20 shots on goal per game, a defense with more shutouts than any other team in the state and the endurance to play for 120 minutes regulation plus overtime.
"We focus on the things we can control," said defender Annie Warren. "If we do those things, the wins will come."
Winning is far from foreign for the perennial powers. Brighton's roster, however, will be less familiar.
The Bengals are anchored by a small, but close, group of just five seniors led by last year's leading scorer, Mati Long, and Warren. The rest of the lineup is filled with a talented group of new players, plucked from a large group of hopefuls last week.
During this year's tryouts, Stoker went with a unique selection process. No tryouts for position, no expectations.
Every hopeful just went out and played some soccer.
"We all just tried out for field," goalkeeper Tamaryn Braun said. "It's kept everyone on their toes."
As a result, opponents will find familiar opponents at unfamiliar spots on the field. Veteran midfielder Stephanie Ringwood is now a defender. Former defender Jade Jones will now be charging the net.
"With no set formation, I think we really hope to catch other teams off guard," Braun said. "We were ready to break out of our rut, and I think this will do it."
While the change-up will certainly keep opponents on their toes this season, Stoker had an overarching motivation.
"At the next level, they are looking for versatility," Stoker said. "We want to prepare these girls for the next stage of their soccer careers."
In doing so, he may be helping the Bengals' chances to get back to their winning ways now and erase the disappointment of last season.
Last season, the Bengals hoped to defend their hard-earned 2010 5A state title. Instead, they saw their hopes of a repeat dashed in a shootout by a familiar, though unlikely, opponent in Northridge which also ousted the defending champion Bengals in the first round in 2006.
"It happens," Long said. "Anyone can win on any given day, and we didn't get it done."
But that's all behind them now. And in its place is a set of tiger eyes on their new uniforms another symbol of a new era for the Bengals.
"Our jerseys are awesome," Braun said. "We've got a lot of new traditions like that which have made us more united. We're ready to start off the year right."
Brighton soccer back in gear
The perennially powerful Brighton girls soccer team is now under the direction of first-year coach and Brighton alumnus Matt Stoker.
The Bengals are focusing less on expectations and more on measurable goals in 2012. They hope to lead the state in shutouts at the end of the season.