When the Northwest College women’s soccer team takes the field Friday for their season opener against Northeastern Junior College, the 11 freshmen on the team won’t be the only ones making their debut in Trapper red.
First-year interim head coach Jessica Lum will be beginning her career as well, following in the footsteps of coach Rob Hill, who left the program after last season. Following a scrimmage last week against the Powell High School boys soccer team, Lum said she is encouraged by the progress the NWC team has made in a relatively short time.
“The biggest thing is, most of these girls haven’t played together before,” Lum said. “We’re doing a lot of experimenting at this point to figure out what the best combination of players is for our team. The scrimmage was really the first time they had played together, so I think it was a success because of that.”
Lum said the Lady Trappers defended much better in the second half of the scrimmage after a slow start — and with more confidence came more scoring opportunities.
“I was pleased with the results,” Lum said. “It didn’t take very much instruction for them to improve what they were doing, so I was pretty happy with that.”
Preparing for what Lum describes as a “rebuilding year,” the coach said the team didn’t have the luxury of recruiting for certain positions. Players are learning to play different positions, with new formations and new teammates.
“All of that together, those are a lot of challenges,” she said. “But at the same time, I was pretty happy with it [the scrimmage], and I think they felt good about it themselves.”
The Lady Trappers only have six returners from last season, so there will be a learning curve as players work to define their roles on the team. Lum will be relying on those returners to provide leadership moving forward. Team captains for this season are Shayla Deming of Laurel, Montana, Katie Behrens of Twin Falls, Idaho, and Ashly Nieters of Cody.
“Each one of them has something to offer the team, so kind of from the beginning, I told them I expected all of them to step up,” Lum explained.
The coach is also counting on fellow sophomores Jessie Shipley, Hiroko Sogabe and Holly Burley.
“Shayla [Deming], Katie [Behrens] and Ashly [Nieters] are kind of leading the charge, but honestly, all six of them are necessary to provide leadership,” Lum said.
Shipley “has been dedicated outside of practice with working with our freshmen who are not as skilled,” while Sogabe and Burley “just came back with a terrific attitude, they want to play, they want to be here,” Lum said; Burley also has helped with communications off the field, with social media.
“I just see all of them playing a really important role to this team,” Lum said.
With the Lady Trappers opening their season with a pair of home games this weekend, Lum said every member of the team is dedicated to success. Several players made the decision to come to NWC literally the week before practice began, and their willingness to adapt to their new team has been outstanding, she said.
“In terms of attitude, the personality and character on the team, I’m really excited,” Lum said. “I think everyone is really coachable, and they’re willing to invest the time and energy into what they have to do to contribute to the team.”
A lot of the focus, especially in a rebuilding year, will be on building a team on and off the field, the coach said.
“We want to be competitive as well, but I think if we build the team correctly, the girls will just enjoy playing and enjoy each other,” she said. “That’s what we’re going for.”
Lum will be assisted this season by Heidi Swenson and Callee Erickson, as well as fellow first-year head coach Stan Rodrigues of the men’s team. Lum said Rodrigues has been generous with sharing his years of coaching experience with her and her team.
“We will certainly be using him for help as well,” Lum said. “We work well together.”
The team plays at 1 p.m. Friday against Northeastern Junior College at Trapper Field.
“The girls just need to get used to playing with each other, making sure their communication is good,” Lum said. “Everybody has a different on-the-field language that they’re using, so we’ve found that we have to make sure everyone is on the same page with the language they use. Communication and coming up with a common team language on the field is important.”