By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
On a field like most others, the Santa Rosa Junior College women’s soccer team has found something special.
This season’s squad has been working on the Santa Rosa turf to put together another championship chapter. The Bear Cubs are coming off a state title and fifth straight conference crown.
“We know when every team comes to play us they are determined to beat us. We are the state champs even though we’re a totally new team,” said Laura Fenton, a defender from the former Ursuline High.
New indeed, returning only four starters, Santa Rosa must play to individual strengths while learning to play as a team.
“It’s been awesome so far,” said coach Tracy Hamm.
Santa Rosa’s third coach in as many years, Hamm has pushed her players to be stronger and faster so the Bear Cubs can compete for another California Community College Athletic Association championship.
Hamm, a former Cal great and ex-professional player, already is putting her stamp on a program that reached the state final four under Emiria Salzmann and won the title with Luke Oberkirch the past two seasons.
“She’s really motivational. She tries to get the best out of us at every practice,” Fenton said of Hamm. “Everyone is willing to work hard and that’s all you can ask.”
While three games aren’t much to measure success, Santa Rosa is defending well, having given up just a goal in its one loss and notching a pair of shutouts for wins.
Anchoring the defense is Fenton, who missed last season to a broken leg. Back in top form, Fenton has strong support from Hannah Roberts, out of Petaluma High, and Caina Field, from Analy.
“Our back line is solid,” Hamm said. “We’ve got a heart of a lion.”
An offense led by striker Kareli Rodriguez is showing improvement. The former Montgomery standout should be one of the Big 8 Conference’s top players, Hamm said.
What the Bear Cubs are still searching for is consistent midfield play.
“We’re doing a lot more combinations, looking to switch the ball. We’re just able to connect more as a team,” Fenton said.
The skills are there. What has been added is a greater fitness level, often evident at the end of halves.
“We thrive on that,” Fenton said.
One of the team’s best athletes is Ashley Luis. The former Casa Grande standout is at goalkeeper after playing the midfield last season.
The young women are playing junior college ball, but their coach demands a work ethic similar to the major-college level.
“They’re fitter. They’re more mentally tough,” Hamm said. “I believe our team will be successful and make another run for the conference championship and the state championship.”