By Kevin Eickman
Looking back on the Milford 2018 girl’s soccer season, some might be hard pressed to find a great deal to be happy with. But the measure of that team may be most clearly defined as their relentless pursuit of improvement. It would have been so simple to back it in and write off the season as a lost cause, but on the final day of the year Milford traveled down to Laurel and earned their lone victory of the season.
While one victory may not sound like much, it was an indication of the one thing coach Donovan Howard has wanted from his players since he took over four years ago. “This is about an extension of the education process here at Milford, this is not just about winning soccer games,” Howard said. “It is about learning and improving day after day and that is always our goal.”
Milford saw steady success in the victory column the previous two seasons under Howard, improving from 5-10 to 7-8 in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. While it would have been nice to continue the steady rise in wins, Howard understands that there are always bound to be bumps in the road. This year however, he has great cause for optimism.
“We have a great mix of veteran leadership and young players coming into the program which I believe are going to be thrilling to watch,” said Howard. “The work ethic has been through the roof with this year’s squad. The work the players have put in during the off-season is really showing up on the pitch.”
One clear indication of how far the program has come under Howard is the number of players that are in the program now as compared to four years ago. In his inaugural season Howard was lucky to have a little over twenty players, this season that number has more than doubled. It’s not by accident either, it is because soccer is a growing sport in the Milford community and the grass roots efforts are beginning to pay dividends.
“Just a few years ago we had to spend a lot of time just teaching girls how to properly position themselves on the pitch. Now we have players that are coming here in their first season with a greater understanding of the game,” commented Howard. “Between what’s going on at with the coaching at The Central Academy along with players taking advantage of offerings like Delaware Turf, Parks & Rec along with other local resources, we have players coming in here now that have a love and understanding of the game.”
Milford will be looking at a group of seven seniors to provide depth and leadership this season. Silvara Santiago, Kaia Opalinksi, Wendy Lara, Amyah Matthews, Stephanie Cabrera-Ruiz, Jessie Donovan and Nadia Delva are all expected to provide depth and leadership on the field.
“These young ladies have continued to impress me with their leadership, they are always looking to improve as well as help those around them become better players as well,” Howard stated.
While senior leadership is in place, fans should keep an eye out for some of the younger players who will be given prominent minutes as well including freshman twins Carlie and Reina Fogal in the front. The youth movement continues in the midfield as well with freshman Olivia Muir on the left side and Karena Sollie on the right.
“Milford has seen a bunch of Sollie’s go through here athletically over the years, it’s always great to have another in the fold,” said Howard. When asked about what is expected to be a large amount of freshman getting varsity minutes, Howard was quick to respond. “Anyone that is getting time on the pitch is earning it. This doesn’t start in March, it starts back in November in the weight room. These eight freshman have not missed anything, they have shown up and are earning their spots.”
Milford will open the season at home this Friday as they host Polytech at 5:30 pm, which will be preceded by the JV match at 4pm.
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