Hunter soccer determined not to be an easy target
Soccer • With new coach, new system brings fresh perspective to struggling program.
Published: August 11, 2012 08:58PM
Updated: November 30, 2012 11:31PM

Linsey Rogerson cringes when she hears how many goals the Hunter soccer team allowed last year: 94.

“I didn’t know it was that many,” she says.

It was that many — the most in Class 5A. And the Wolverines hope it’s a number they can soon forget.

Brett Solberg, a Hunter alum himself, has swept in as the team’s new coach. He’s pushed the players in ways they haven’t been pushed, all in an effort to change the culture of a program that hasn’t seen much winning.

Although the Wolverines did manage a 5-12 record and made the playoffs last season, they lost by virtue of the “mercy rule” — an 8-goal margin — nine times last season.

The top goal this season: No mercy-rule losses.

“It’s frustrating to have all those shots go in,” says Brook McKee, the team’s starting goalkeeper. “We’re definitely not expecting to win every game, but we want to compete.”

The most obvious change Solberg has made so far is conditioning: The team is running more than it ever did last year. In the middle of practice, the players huddle up together and run sprints along the sides of the school field.

“You see the best teams always have girls who are in great shape,” Solberg says. “Even if you learn the skills, if you can’t keep up with the other team, you’re going to get dominated.”

Senior full back Morgan Allen says it more frankly: “It’s easier not to get your butt kicked if you’re not dead tired at the end.”

Solberg had a chance to see dominance up close last season when he taught — but didn’t coach — at Alta. He watched the Hawks make their run to the state championship, leading the state in goals scored and fewest goals allowed.

His observations of Alta have helped shape Hunter’s new brand of soccer. Team members are becoming more conscious of what’s going on around them: who is making the cut, where to attack the goal. Solberg keeps a whiteboard close at hand to diagram plays and explain to his pupils.

“We don’t have as much down time as last year,” Allen says. “We’re just playing a lot more.”

Some position switches are expected to help the team as well. Rogerson, formerly a midfielder, will shore up the back line as a stopper. One of the faster members of the team, Stephanie Figueroa, will play more on attack.

It might not be a dynasty in the making, but the team feels a gently rising tide of optimism.

“We want to at least show that we can be a challenge to the really good teams,” Figueroa says. “We want to try our hardest and not get mercy ruled.”

Figueroa explains she lives with a soccer-rabid family — her uncle played professionally in Mexico. As a sophomore on last year’s team, she found a lot of frustration.

With a new season and a new coach, there’s been some rejuvenation.

“[Coach Solberg] has motivation for us,” she says. “He was a player, so he knows what it takes.”

Last year, Hunter was a first-round punching bag for Lone Peak in the Class 5A postseason. This year, the Wolverines want to secure a No. 2 seed or a No. 3 seed, helping their chances for a second round.

Their first big mental test comes today versus Brighton. But even if that brings a loss, the Wolverines know it’s just another step in the process.

“We’re taking the long view,” Solberg says. “I want to see us not giving up. In the end, we want to be one of the top teams in our region.”

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon

Wolverines bringing tweaked approach to the pitch

The Hunter girls soccer team allowed 94 goals last season.

New coach Brett Solberg, a Hunter grad, is emphasizing conditioning and a winning attitude this season.