By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A pipeline of Sonoma County players packs the starting lineup for the Dominican University of California women’s soccer team as the Penguins look to improve this season.
The Penguins offensive leaders are former All-Empire midfielder Julianna Bratsberg — Maria Carrillo — and Shayna Elkins, an all-North Bay League player at Montgomery.
Helping anchor the defense are Kathryn Ripple and Megan Herring, a pair of former Montgomery players, and Kendra Corsberg, from Maria Carrillo. Each was an All-Empire pick.
Dominican, coming off a win over Chaminade, is 3-5 going into a non-conference contest at San Jose State today.
The region has been well represented since Jon Delano, a Maria Carrillo and Santa Rosa Junior College player, took over the program in San Rafael six years ago.
“The talent pool in Sonoma County has always been very strong,” Delano said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had five players start at one point, but I just pick the best 11 to start each match and it just happens to be that five of them are from Sonoma County.”
Coming off the Penguins’ bench with some spot starts are two other Sonoma County prep standouts. Lexi Humphry, a midfielder from Rancho Cotate, has played every contest. Carrie Freyer, an All-Empire midfielder from Windsor, is seeing more playing time.
Pacific West Conference rivals also have former Sonoma County prep players making an impact for their teams. Haily MacDonald — all-NBL at Ursuline — starts on defense for SF’s Academy of Art University. And Rebecca Yim, an all-Sonoma County League player at Casa Grande, starts on defense for Notre Dame de Namur, in Belmont. Savannah Clements has started at midfield for Chaminade (Honolulu).
“These players are attractive to college coaches because they are used to playing in pressurized environments that are applicable to the college game,” Delano said. “There are also a lot of good coaches in the area that have proven they can develop players for the college game.”
In addition to being close to home, Dominican is even more attractive to players because the Penguins now are eligible to compete for the NCAA Div. II playoffs after moving up from the NAIA ranks.
This season’s outlook is to finish in the top half of the Pac West with a young, talented team and facing a typically tough schedule, Delano said.
Standing out are Bratsberg, a two-time Pac West honor roll selection so far this season, and Elkins, who also has been named one of the conference’s top players.
Dominican’s biggest offensive weapon, Bratsberg leads by example on the field, Delano said.
“She has an ability to make the game look very simple. The biggest improvement in her game has been her leadership,” Delano said.
A captain alongside Bratsberg, Elkins is one of the Penguins toughest competitors, Delano said.
“Shayna is a defensive midfielder who typically does a lot of the dirty work for us. I always praise her for her hard work because she can go unnoticed in the box score,” Delano said.
Look for Dominican to continue tapping the Sonoma County soccer ranks on both the women’s and men’s sides.
Delano also is in his third season as the men’s coach. The Penguins have seven former Sonoma County boys’ players on the roster led by starters David Mendez, an All-Empire midfielder from Windsor, and Fabian Valdez, an All-Empire defender from Rancho Cotate.
Delano’s coaching roots in Sonoma County include leading the Montgomery boys for a season and three years leading Santa Rosa United U-17 and U-18 boys squads.
“We have always had a strong contingent from Sonoma County dating back to when I started with the women’s program,” he said.