Local soccer teams experience growth spurt

 

Manistee’s Georgia Hiipakka (22) and Shyann Ronning (5) in action for the Chippewas’ varsity girls soccer team last season. This year’s squad may feature a junior varsity team for the first time in recent memory. (News Advocate file photo)

Manistee’s Georgia Hiipakka (22) and Shyann Ronning (5) in action for the Chippewas’ varsity girls soccer team last season. This year’s squad may feature a junior varsity team for the first time in recent memory. (News Advocate file photo)

Soccer has experienced an undeniable boom in popularity in the United States in the past decades, and it appears that Manistee is catching up with this trend, if interest in local high-school girls soccer is any indication.

Chippewas head coach Rudy Guillen said that he has 33 girls signed up to play soccer, and expects at least a couple more from the basketball team that just ended its season on Tuesday.

Guillen said that he hopes to be able to field a junior varsity team for the first time in recent memory.

“It seems like there are so many things going on these days that it’s hard to get them all going at the same time, but I’m looking to see what we have in numbers for sure,” Guillen said. “Hopefully by the end of next week we can make a decision on whether or not to have a JV squad.”

Youth soccer in Manistee has been a popular activity for years, but Guillen said that hasn’t necessarily translated to a booming varsity program.

“It makes us wonder, when they all get to high school, where they’re all going,” he said. “There are a lot of teams that play in the MRA (Manistee Recreation Association) and the soccer club, and so we wonder what happens when they get into high school.”

But that appears to be changing, for the better in Guillen’s view.

“It would be fantastic (to have a JV team),” Guillen said. “It’s been quite a few years since we’ve had one, and we coaches know that it’s hard to build a strong program without having a feeder program to look at.”

This will be the third year of Brethren’s varsity girls soccer program, one that co-ops with Bear Lake. Bobcats head coach J.J. Randall said that, while the varsity team will be smaller than last year, he sees positive signs for future seasons.

“Our numbers are down right now, because we had a big group of seniors go through last year,” Randall said. “We have a bunch of middle-schoolers who are playing, a bunch of eighth-graders coming up. It’s becoming more popular in our school.”

Brethren went winless in its first season, but won three games last year. Randall said that he thinks they can double that total this year.

“There are some freshmen this year that I’ll have to fundamentally build up, but if they return next year they’re going to be a lot better,” Randall said. “There are a couple of girls who were freshmen last year who are tremendously ahead of what I expected (this year).”

And Randall said that the future looks bright for the program, thanks in part to a middle-school program now in its first season.

“There’s a good group of eighth-graders coming up, and with the sophomores right now going through, we’ll have a competitive program,” he said. “When those sophomores are seniors, we’re going to be really tough.”

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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