The season has been up and down for the Appoquinimink High School girls soccer team as far as wins and losses goes. However, playing through an extremely challenging schedule, the Jaguars believe they’re sharpening their skills and growing as a team in hopes of challenging for a coveted playoff spot down the line.
“We are a talented squad with some hard working players and we’ve had some brilliant moments,” said Appoquinimink head coach Wes Kendle. “Now, we’re just trying to build on our consistency and play at that high level all the time.”
The Jags opened the year dropping four of their first five games, suffering losses to Sussex Tech, Caravel Academy, Middletown, Charter School of Wilmington, teams who were a combined 35-2 at the start of the week.
The tough opening matchups are by design.
“We try to play a challenging schedule that will help us make our players and coaches better, and unfortunately sometimes that means losing a few games,” said Kendle. “We were proud of our efforts early in the season, despite what some of the scoreboards said.”
While they suffered losses in the standings, the Jags haven’t hung their heads after facing some of the state’s best – quite the opposite.They used their early season struggles as teaching moments and motivation for the future.
“As coaches, we tried to focus on our improvements and the positives of what were some really fun, hard fought games against some of the best teams in the state, because we know those experiences would help make us better,” Kendle said. “Our players did a great job of keeping their composure too, and staying focused on our goals at practices and not being distracted by our early season record.”
Looking to change directions after a 1-4 start, the team responded with three straight shutout victories over Ursuline Academy, Concord and Newark.
The Lady Jags began their winning streak in heart-racing fashion, defeating Ursuline Academy 1-0 thanks to a Sydney Carr overtime winner.
Then, Carr, Olivia Stephen, Alani Lawrence and the team leader in goals, Alison Candy, all scored in a 4-0 win over Concord.
Hailey Shiflett nailed a first-half talley against Newark and it was all the Jags would need to win their third straight, 1-0.
Having rebounded nicely ahead of some tough matchups this week with Padua and Caesar
Rodney, Coach Kendle said the team has leaned on its experienced players.
“It helps having captains on our team like Elena Hilario, Ashley Hickman, Claire Burgazli and Jacqueline Bajek,” Kendle said. “They are terrific people and have helped keep our focus during the best and most trying moments of this year.”
With the second half now in front of them, there are even more challenges to come, including today’s matchup on the road at Caesar Rodney.
After CR, Appo will close out the season taking on teams with winning records in four of their final five games.
The home stretch includes four conference matchups against William Penn (5-2), Hodgson (1- 5), Newark (4-3), Delcastle (6-1) and a non-conference game against Smyrna (4-3). Not looking too far ahead, the Jags are focused on their ultimate goal.
“We certainly still feel like our goal of making the tournament is still very attainable and I think our players are excited at having the opportunity to test themselves the rest of the way,” Kendle said. “We are committed to working hard each day to keep improving and trying to make that field of eight teams.”