Redskins soccer ready for Hilmar in playoffs

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

Calaveras has an opportunity to avenge last year's narrow first-round playoff loss to Hilmar when the Redskins open the Sac-Joaquin Girls' Soccer Division V Championships on Thursday against the Yellowjackets for the second postseason in-a-row.

"I'm excited we get a chance to play them again," said Redskin left midfielder Kassy Dietle. "I know we can beat that team and we're going to give it our all."

The Redskins finished the 2013 regular season tied with the Amador Buffaloes at 11-1-3 that earned Calaveras a share of its second Mother Lode League girls' soccer title in school history - the other time was in 2011 when most of the seniors on the current team were sophomores - and a No. 2 seed in the section playoffs.

However, divisional placement is determined by enrollment, and Calaveras (about 1,133 students) was large enough to warrant a No. 5 seed in the Division V Championships while MLL rivals Amador (about 668) and Argonaut (about 589) were given No. 1 and No. 7 seeds, respectively, in the Division VI Championships.

"There's some good teams in Division V and we're honored to even be there," said Calaveras head coach Rob Leetham.

The Yellowjackets (15-4-2, 10-2 Trans Valley League) are heading into the playoffs this year after closing out the regular season on a five-game win streak to claim the TVL title.

"We're encouraged when looking at common opponents because it looks like we're pretty even with them," Leetham said.

Calaveras (14-7-3 overall) defeated Hilmar's TVL rivals Hughson and Escalon in early-season matchups against each while the Yellowjackets defeated MLL contender Summerville in February.

The Redskins went 1-1-1 against the Bears during the regular MLL season while Hilmar went 1-1 against both Hughson and Escalon in TVL play.

However, a big difference between the teams lies in the number of goals scored on the season - Hilmar outscored Calaveras 71-42.

"They've definitely scored a lot more goals than we have but I don't know if they've faced a defense as tough as ours," Leetham said.

Leetham is hoping his Redskin defenders can slow down Hilmar's fast and furious attack led by top scorers Jaimee Rocha, Oliviah Gemperle and Kinsey Pettigrew, who together have a combined 48 goals this season, or about 68 percent of their entire team's total.

"We've definitely noticed their stats and have a strategy in mind to slow them down," he said. "They've had great seasons and hopefully our plan works."

Part of that plan will certainly have to be Calaveras defender Jordyn Leetham, who said defense will be key against the high-scoring Yellowjackets.

"We need to keep up the intensity and pressure," the Calaveras High junior said. "Our defense will have to step it up along with key players like Tiffany Souza, who is one of our strongest forwards, and Pookie Deckman, who will probably play more defensive on Thursday as well."

Last year, Calaveras fell in the first round of postseason to Hilmar in a 2-1 heartbreaker that came down to the final minutes. Jordyn Leetham said that loss will serve as motivation for the Redskins.

"I'm feeling pretty confident actually," she said. "I feel like we're going to be able to do pretty good against them. They look like a strong team, but we're a strong team too."

She also pointed out that since a number of Redskins on the current team played in the first-round playoff loss last season, they'll better know what to expect when they again face-off with the Yellowjackets in Hilmar at 3:30 p.m., Thursday.

"We felt like we had a good chance to beat them last year but didn't," she said. "This year, hopefully we can use that to come back, pull off a win and keep moving on in the playoffs."

The Union Democrat
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