By RUSSELL JONES
The Otter Valley girls’ soccer team has high expectations for themselves. Led by veteran coach John White, the girls’ team petitioned the VPA to move up to Div. II from Div. III because they wanted a bigger challenge.
“They want to push themselves and face tougher competition,” White said. “They’ve practiced hard all summer and they’re motivated.”
He fields a team of seven seniors, two juniors, one sophomore and eight freshmen. Those freshmen may be new to high school soccer, but White said they don’t lack experience.
“Half of those freshmen played club soccer around the state and New England,” the former professional soccer player said. “You really need to have that because very few men or women are athletic enough to play soccer at a high level by only playing two months a year for the high school season.”
Heading up the attack for the Otters will be Olivia White, who led last season’s seven-win team in scoring with over 20 goals.
“We can definitely attack,” White said. “Last year we were kind of limited in what we could do, but this year we have three or four players with quality attacking skills.”
The Otters should also have strong center play with last season’s All-State selection Leah Pinkowski and the rest of last year’s center players returning.
A new controversial rule by the VPA disqualifies parents who coach varsity from also leading a club team that their son or daughter plays on. White said that the rule doesn’t affect him, as his daughter Olivia is a senior now and verbally committed to UVM, but said the VPA rules are setting the state back.
“Pound for pound Vermont produces a higher percentage of outstanding athletes than most of the country,” the 20-year veteran coach said. “Vermont should be on the forefront of encouraging parents and coaches to get the best out of the kids they can.”
White’s Otters will lean on the athleticism they can put on the field and will try to take advantage of other teams being overly aggressive while playing together on the attack.
“We’re not just going to be running up and booting the ball,” White said. “We’re going to be moving it up the field; passing and playing as a team.”
White added that a lot of the teams they face would be looking to play them hard because they know the Otters are for real.
“The state championship is always the goal, but you got to do it right,” he said. “We’re going to play clean and make it look as good as possible.”