All soccer teams are inherently “goal-oriented,” so when third-year head coach Steve Dimit referred to the 2019 Niwot girls soccer team as such, it wasn’t the squad’s on-field play he had in mind.
“They’re a team that’s really goal-oriented and very, very focused on making another run at the league title, and making the playoffs and having a really good experience this year,” Dimit said. “They’re just committed every day to making this a great season.”
Of course, having a great season will depend on scoring and stopping quite a few of the other type of goal, and that’s where the outlook gets a little murky, Dimit acknowledged. Thanks to graduation, injuries and some uncooperative weather, the 2019 Niwot girls soccer season will open with a long list of unknowns.
“It’s going to be really hard to know until we can get everyone healthy and back out onto the field,” Dimit said. “We haven’t been able to put the whole squad out there and see exactly what we look like. But once we’re able to do that, we should shape up to be a really solid team.”
Niwot will have to be more than solid to compete for the Northern League title in 2019, however. Though the Cougars have won at least a share of it in each of the last two seasons, the team faces two major obstacles on the way to a third. First, most of the key players from those teams have graduated. Second, this year’s Silver Creek squad looks to be just as competitive as they were during their run to the 2018 Class 4A state semifinals.
Though depleted, Dimit noted that graduation didn’t leave his roster bare by any stretch. Anchoring the defense will be junior Lauren Cranny, whom he termed, “one of the best defenders in the conference.” She is also a threat to score, and ended 2018 with three goals and three assists. She will be joined in the box by juniors Ivy Roberts, Lauren Squire, Zoe Wynter and senior Sierra Keppler, who, as a junior, had three goals in eight games for the Cougars before an injury cut her season short.
Unfortunately, there are some holes on defense due to injury. Junior defender Sydney Lee will miss the season with an ankle injury, “and we’re fighting some other smaller injuries back there as well,” Dimit said.
“Fortunately, we’ve been training a whole lot of players on how to do this. We should be back to full strength in a few weeks, but until then it’s going to be defense by committee.”
While cautious about his defense, Dimit has fewer misgivings about Niwot’s offense, thanks in part to sophomore Kiera Flanagan, returning at wing. As a freshman, the speedy Flanagan scored two goals and had five assists, and was noteworthy for her ability to create space between defenders. Dimit said she is definitely the player to “keep an eye on” for Niwot in 2019.
“I think she’s going to have a breakout season,” he said. “She just keeps getting better and better. I’m really excited to see what she brings.”
She will be joined by seniors Grace Knight and Elise Crall, who had six goals for the Cougars last season, and is coming out of the varsity basketball season “completely ready to compete,” according to Dimit. Also returning to varsity at midfield is sophomore Maddie Borncamp, another playmaker last season.
“And then we’ve got a really interesting crew that has seen time before but hasn’t taken the spotlight yet,” Dimit said of returning juniors Natalia Storz, Autumn Carlston, and senior Grace Knight. “So it’s going to be fun to see what they can do. They all got their goals last year, but none have really shone yet, so I think there’s some huge potential.”
Dimit had another big hole to fill at keeper, left by Allie Colvin’s graduation. Junior Quinn Gossett has won that role for now, he said, after a stint as Colvin’s backup in 2018.
“Quinn is the starter going into week one. She’s been seeing this opportunity coming and she’s been training really, really hard. I think she’s going to do a great job.”
As usual, the Cougars have a daunting non-league schedule this season, with perennial playoff teams Standley Lake, Palmer Ridge, and Green Mountain on the docket. Dimit also expects another tough go in the Northern League, Silver Creek aside. However, gone from the schedule is Windsor, a Class 4A finalist in 2018, which was elevated to Class 5A in an off-season realignment by CHSAA, along with state champion Valor Christian. Dimit said that could change the competitive landscape in an underappreciated way.
“Green Mountain’s one of those teams along with Littleton and Palmer Ridge that has the potential to breakout and have more space to win so it will be really interesting to see how we stack up against them,” he said.
The Cougars kick off the season with three straight home games, the first against Peak to Peak on Thursday, March 7. They then host Erie on Saturday, March 9, and then Mead on Friday, March 15.