St. Mary's Ryken girls soccer looks forward to new season with a new head coach

View the SMR Girls Soccer Schedule

Published by The Enterprise on August 29, 2018

Courtesy of COLIN STOECKER 

Despite losing their entire defensive line and goalkeeper last year to graduation and injury, St. Mary’s Ryken High School girls soccer is persevering towards victory under new senior leadership and a new coach.

The SMR girls soccer team warms up before a preseason practice under new coach Pete Staufenburger, who takes over the program as head coach. Photo by Colin Stoecker, The Enterprise

Head coach Pete Staufenberger is new to the team this year, but is filling a role he is already familiar with, as his daughter played for the Knights and graduated this spring.

“We’ve only been at it for a week.” Staufenberger said. “It wasn’t that big of a transition. I don’t feel like a brand new coach coming in here because I’m familiar with the school, the players and the conference.”

The Knights 13-6-2 overall a season ago, 2-4-2 in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference under Tim Major, who was head coach for eight seasons.

This season, St. Mary’s Ryken’s biggest challenge this year will be rebuilding the defense after losing several key pieces. They won their first scrimmage of the season against North Point, giving up just one goal on a penalty kick.

“We’ve had a good turnout and a great effort from the girls,” Staufenberger said. “It went very well, there were a lot of good things. We didn’t give up a goal during the run of play which was nice. So our defense is pretty good, which is really our biggest hole this year. It’s something we’re working on.”

The majority of the team leadership comes from two rising seniors who have been on the team for the last few years.

“We are pretty happy with some of the players that have stepped up,” Staufenberger said. “Some girls have played defender on their club teams, so it has been plugging in pretty nicely. I’m not as concerned as I was when I first started off here. We have a number of really talented sophomores and a freshman on the team now.”

Gabbi Leach, a rising senior and co-captain, is already committed to Coastal Carolina University next fall to play Division I soccer.

“I’m just super excited to be back on the field playing,” Leach said. “I was coming off of an injury. It’s important that we all have positive attitudes. It’s important that we all work together.”

She added: “Last year we actually had one of our best years. This year, I think we’re gonna do even better and go through more conference wins. We have a lot of strong underclassmen on the team, a lot of juniors and we have all been playing together for four years. So we all know how to play together.”

Mary Thomas, also a co-captain this year, plays center back. She is a rising senior and three-year varsity soccer player for the Knights.

“It’s been going good. I’m just a little nervous at first because it’s a big responsibility,” Thomas said, “but it’s really fun being part of the team.”

Thomas is looking forward to besting her last year’s record.

“Last year we did very well. We had a lot of talent on the team,” she said. “Unfortunately, we had just a few games where we had mental mistakes in the last few minutes and we couldn’t pull it together, but we did pretty well.”

With the loss of last year’s seniors, Thomas is more excited about the opportunity for younger players to pull together for the Knights defense.

“Our whole entire D-line and our goalie were all players who were seniors or were seriously injured last season,” she said. “But we are hoping to come back this year with a young D-line. We want to get all the basics down first and really grow as a unit.”

The WCAC is highly competitive for soccer, and no one has more to win than the seniors who have played with the team most of their high school careers and are now in a position to take that leadership to the next level.

“I want to win a playoff game,” Thomas said. “We are in a pretty competitive conference, so I think it would be pretty monumental for the program to get a playoff win.”

The Knights begin the 2018 campaign with three games in three days, playing host to Maryvale Preparatory School of Baltimore County at 6 p.m. Thursday followed by heading to Anne Arundel County to take on South River and Severna Park on Friday and Saturday.

Twitter: @stoeckercolinw