Last month, the Santa Monica High girls soccer team scored a season-high four goals in a nonconference win over Los Angeles-Marymount. During tournament play four days later, the Vikings were held scoreless in a loss to the same school.
The first game seemed to point to Samohi’s potential a season after it reached the section semifinals for the second time in program history. The second game highlighted the challenges of sustaining success with seven new starters in the lineup, including three freshmen.
It’s a dynamic that doesn’t seem to concern coach Jimmy Chapman, who sees his seventh year at the helm not as a rebuilding lull but as a reloading opportunity.
“We find the pieces, we work and adapt based on the players we have,” Chapman said. “For the returning players and the seniors, even if they weren’t starting, they understand exactly what it’s going to take. It’s gonna come down to jelling and peaking at the right time.
“They’re carrying a load that they didn’t have because we had such a senior-heavy team last year. They’re getting more minutes and they’re being asked to do more, but they’re happy to accept the responsibilities.”
New players in new roles could make the difference this year for Samohi (3-5-2), which will wrap up its rigorous preseason slate this week with home games against Palos Verdes and Palisades. The Vikings enter Ocean League play at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at home against Hawthorne.
Even with his team’s significant turnover on the field, Chapman said this year’s group can still contend for a conference title and make a run in the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Samohi, which hasn’t lost a league game since the 2012-13 season, is in the hunt for a third straight conference crown.
“We have a lot of spots to fill,” he said. “We’re having seven girls who have had no varsity experience or very limited varsity experience playing. But we’re going to get back to where we were last year and take the next step because of their discipline, their mentality and their fight. We spend a lot of time working on bonding and working on team chemistry, and that’s going to serve us well. They know it’s a process.”
Chapman said he’ll rely on several key returners to lead the Vikings in 2015-16. Pacing the midfield is junior Maggie Lena, a talented playmaker who earned first-team all-league honors and third-team all-CIF recognition last year. Powering the Samohi attack is current points leader Chloe Kleinman, a senior forward who also received first-team all-league and third-team all-CIF awards last season. And anchoring the back line is senior Francine Rios-Fetchko, a second-team all-conference honoree who was named the team’s defensive most valuable player last year. Starting in goal is junior Madeline Kresin.
Lena, Kleinman, Rios-Fetchko and Kresin will help the Vikings carry forward following the departure of a large 2015 class that included first-team all-CIF honorees Ariana Lomeli and Hannah McNally as well as current Wesleyan University player Ella Sinfield.
Chapman said he promotes continuity in his program by having the varsity players train with the less-experienced athletes, particularly during the offseason.
“They already understand the philosophy and what our expectations are, and we adapt what we do tactically based on personnel,” he said. “We’re playing a different style, more of an attacking style. We’re going to press a lot, and we’re going to be in every game because we’re not going to wait to see what happens. We’re going to force the issue and be aggressive instead of being passive and hoping for the best. We’re going to go down swinging.”