The Juan Diego soccer team has been aggressive early in its preseason schedule, despite just a 1-2 record so far. Against teams from higher classifications, the Soaring Eagle has not been an easy out.
If you didn't know the team was missing its best player, it would be hard to tell.
Starting this week, Juan Diego will be without reigning Class 3A MVP Emily Bruder, who is slated to travel to Azerbaijan to compete in the U-17 FIFA Women's World Cup next month. Although the tournament doesn't start until late September, the team is already training for the competition in California, leaving Juan Diego without its top scoring option.
But though the team feels her absence, the Soaring Eagle isn't going to use it as an excuse.
"We've got a bunch of wonderful seniors, wonderful captains, and we're still competing," coach Simon McFall says. "We wish Emily the best, but it's kind of a situation when she does well, we have to say goodbye. But we're still going to play hard."
The cast that's still with the team is undeniably tough, even at the striker position that Bruder leaves behind. Senior Mattie Muzatko, committed to Washington State, has already scored a pair of goals this year.
Kristen Shimkus and Stevie Midgley play vital roles in supplementing the attack. Although the unit misses some speed and physicality at the top of the pitch, when Juan Diego gets to region play, it should be tough to defend.
The Soaring Eagle's own defense is a little more uncertain. At the moment, McFall says, none of the back line starters from last season are playing. A pair of freshmen, Catherine Billings and Emily Pascua, are two of the more active defenders, and will be tested often this season.
Luckily, Juan Diego has a luxury that not many other teams have: a third-year starter in goal. Melanie Meacham brings experience and composure to the defensive unit.
The team is not without its struggles off the field: School began this week, and several players who were close to Adam Colosimo, the rising junior who died in July, were having a tough time dealing with that profound loss.
"We're still grieving, and it's good for us that we're an all-encompassing school that can deal with this on many levels," McFall says. "It's going to be challenging, but we're working through it."
The show must go on
Juan Diego will be without star striker Emily Bruder possibly until October
The team will rely on veterans such as Mattie Muzatko, Stevie Midgely and Melanie Meacham
The Soaring Eagle also has 19 freshmen it can call up, such as Catherine Billings