By Bill McCaughey
For The Fort Bend Star
Last year the Elkins Knights girls soccer team lost in the second round of the playoffs. This year their goal is to advance further, and Coach Hank Deslaurier believes they can.
“Even though we have a lot of juniors and sophomores, they are very talented and they fit well with our senior leadership,” Deslaurier said.
The Knights return four all-district first teamers in senior forward Ashley Crumbaker, junior mid-fielder Lauryn Weller, junior forward Sarah Faraone, and sophomore mid-fielder Grace Snyder. Also returning are all-district second teamers goal keeper and every other position senior Janelle Rodriguez, junior mid-fielder Jessica Neal, junior mid-fielder Josephine Henry, and sophomore goal keeper Alyssa Zamora.
If you noticed a large number of mid-fielders in the group, so did Coach Deslaurier.
“I like the four (defenders) – four (midfielders) – two (forwards) formation, but due to the number of mid-fielders we have, we play a 3-4-3,” Deslaurier said. “We play more mid-fielders and our strategy is to aggressively attack on offense and keep the pressure on the other team.”
Deslaurier has been coaching soccer for over 25 years and has been at Elkins for four years. He has earned the U.S. Soccer B license, which very few high school coaches hold.
“The number one thing a good high school soccer player has to have is heart. These girls, between their club team and high school team, may put in over 40 hours a week. They just love the game,” Deslaurier said.
Forward Ashley Crumbaker, a four-year varsity player, is the team’s leading scorer. Last year she had 18 goals and she had 19 goals her sophomore season. She already has three goals this season.
“Ashley has an unbelievable ability to head-in goals,” Deslaurier said.
“I like our chances in the playoffs,” Crumbaker said. “I feel like we have grown as a team and everything is coming together.”
Crumbaker, whose idol while growing up was David Beckham, would like to continue playing soccer in college but hasn’t committed to a school yet.
“As a mid-fielder, my job is to connect the forwards and the defense as we transition between offense and defense,” said junior center mid-fielder and captain Lauryn Weller.
Weller has recovered from two ACL surgeries on the same knee and would like to study bio-medical science, which could lead to being a surgeon or physical therapist.
“It took me about seven months of physical therapy to recover from the ACL, and I would like to help people recover from their injuries and get back to what they love doing,” Weller said.
As a freshman, goalkeeper Alyssa Zamora started about 70 percent of the games.
“When I was younger I joined a new team and they didn’t have a goalie, so I became the goalie and have stayed with it,” Zamora said. “A good goalie needs to influence her team. When the team is down I try to encourage them and keep them pumped up.”
Senior Janell Rodriguez is a four-year varsity member and all-district player her last two years. She plays wherever the team needs her.
“I have played all positions,” Rodriguez said. “Whatever the team needs me to do, I will do it.”
Elkins has been ranked fifth in the Houston area in preseason polls, but the team doesn’t believe in preseason rankings. Sounding like a veteran, sophomore Zamora summed it up best.
“We just need to focus on making the playoffs first, then we can start thinking about how far we can go,” she said.