Aaron Colen, Sports Editor, Aaron.Colen@chickashanews.com
The Bridge Creek High School girls soccer team is a first-year program with mostly freshmen and sophomores on the roster, but that doesn't mean they won't be competitive this season.
Many of the Lady Bobcats players have been playing club soccer for years, and are just now getting the opportunity to compete in a school environment.
"We're not a typical first-year program," head coach Jason Sanders said. "We've got some talent. We've got a group of girls here who are pretty good, and will be since they're only freshmen and sophomores. It wasn't just thrown together, we knew we had some girls that could play."
A group of Bridge Creek parents had been pushing for the school to start a soccer program, and athletic director Jerry Wallis decided to implement the program this year, along with a junior high wrestling program that will eventually extend to high school.
The Lady Bobcats will be a class 4A girls soccer team, but won't be eligible to play postseason games until next season.
"We've talked about building for next year when we're eligible to play for something," Sanders said. "We feel by that time we'll have a team that can certainly compete to get into the state tournament."
Sanders coaches the team along with Kassie Byrd, a lay coach from Noble who just finished her playing career at Mid-America Christian University.
"She has come on board technically as an assistant, but she's the soccer expert," Sanders said. "She's doing a great job working with me, and we've been fortunate to get her."
Sanders said he is a fan of soccer, and has some past experience as an assistant soccer coach, so when Wallis asked him to coach the team, he accepted the position. He also coaches boys basketball.
"I was interested, they asked me to, and I was happy to help," Sanders said. To be honest with you, I'm a fan."
They young team is led by two sophomores: defender Carly Hodge and midfielder Autumn Gilchrest. Both were elected team captains.
"[Hodge] is our most versatile player," Sanders said. "She's a natural forward, but we play her a lot on defense because she's so valuable. She's probably got one of the best legs I've seen from a girl at this age.
"Autumn Gilchrest was also elected a captain," Sanders said. "She's a midfielder, probably our best playmakers and one of our most skilled players with the ball."
Sanders said he has also brought on some basketball players to fill out the roster.
"They've never played before, but they're athletic and we think they will certainly make us even better," Sanders said. "We really emphasize development and depth is something we will need to work on in preparing ourselves for next year when we want to compete for the state tournament."
The team has played six preseason scrimmages already, three at Shawnee and three at Chickasha. The Lady Bobcats went 3-3 in those games.
"We put together a schedule that will keep us competitive, and at the same time be challenging for us," Sanders said. "Playing some larger-school JV squads and then some schools our size as well."
Sanders said the growth of soccer among kids could lead to Bridge Creek eventually having a boys soccer team as well.
"There is a lot of interest in a boys team," Sanders said. "I would say that would be a few years down the road. One thing I'm learning is that soccer is really growing. So many kids play it when they're young now, the sport is just going to continue to grow."