The St. James girls soccer team finished their season with a 10-9 record. That record means a lot to the Lady Tigers, as it was the first time that they finished the season at or above .500 since 2011.
While St. James finished above .500, they got out to a bit of a sluggish start. With so many fresh faces to the soccer program that can be expected, but as they season went on they became more and more confident and the wins kept coming.
"I think we were a little slow getting started, but once we got in that groove they did great and made great strides," said head coach Abbi Moreland. "I think their confidence was a huge part of the wins that came. As we started to get a few wins, their confidence went up, which kept it going."
2017 was also Moreland's first season as the head coach at St. James after spending 2016 as an assistant. Moreland said her first season matched the expectations she set and those expectations will continue to rise in 2018.
"I personally had a goal of having a winning season and we made that goal. To go on that six game winning streak, it was great for me and for the girls," said the first year head coach. "And we're not losing a huge amount of girls, so I think we'll come back stronger and faster next year."
The key to St. James' success this season was Quinn Paulus. The junior scored 23 goals and had 11 assists on the season to lead the Lady Tigers in both categories.
"As our midfielder and captain, she holds our team together well. (Paulus) gives them something to shoot for," said coach Moreland. "She's always very supportive and helpful to her teammates and she had 23 goals, which was third in the conference."
Paulus' role on this team is more than just as a goal scorer. She had several games where she would take the game over to score three or four goals, but she also put in a lot of work to help her teammates contribute. With so many new soccer players, it's crucial to have a player that wants to help her teammates improve.
"She's a great team player," said Moreland. "She's very unselfish, sometimes I would want her to be a little more selfish, but she does a great job of dishing to her teammates."
It wasn't all smooth sailing for St. James this year, as the injury bug struck a few times. The team's starting keeper, Tylar Reeves, was forced to the bench several times with injuries, which forced Ivy Fowler into action. Moreland liked seeing those two work together to help Fowler get settled in net and keep the Lady Tigers in games.
"Ivy stepped in there and had never played goal before and that's a tough position to have to step into and not know what you're doing and having never played before," said the St. James head coach. "She did a great job stepping up for us and Tylar really did a nice job of embracing her and helping her out. I think she'll do good for us next year."
While Fowler showed a lot of improvement, Moreland didn't hesitate to call Kaylynn Crocker her most improved player. Crocker came in with almost no experience on the pitch and ended the season as a legitimate scoring threat.
"Kaylynn Crocker showed huge growth from the moment she walked in. She'd never played before, never really touched a ball and just each and every game you could see growth with her," said coach Moreland. "Just her touch on the ball. When she first started, her touch was not good and by the end of the season she finally had some touch on it and you could just see the growth every game with her."
The Lady Tigers ended their regular season with a six game winning streak in large part thanks to victories over a couple of strong teams.
"I thought the Mountain View and then North County were two big games," said Moreland. "They were two good, solid teams and we came out ahead."
Coach Moreland is hoping that this season's record leads to more interest in the soccer program so they can continue to grow.
"I think having a winning season will help to get more girls interested in it," said Moreland. "If we can get more girls interested, we can get bigger numbers, get a JV team and get them more playing time before stepping onto a varsity field having never touched a ball."