A high school coach deals with the comings and goings of players every four years. Any number of starters can depart any given year so the dream scenario is one unit growing together, losing few from year to year and hitting their stride as seniors in time for one last playoff push.
Lynden Christian’s girls’ soccer coach Brent De Ruyter is living that ideal situation.
After struggling to score goals at times last season, the Lyncs didn’t lose a player on the attacking side of the ball and now boast three attack-minded seniors hungry to prove last year’s offensive struggles are no more.
So far, so good.
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Lynden Christian has 16 goals in the first six games, and most of them by the seniors. Attacking midfielder Haley Hollander has six, central forward Shaye Brandsma has five and forward Morgan Wandel has two.
“It’s all about hunger as a senior. They’re just naturally that much more driven; they’re more vocal,” LC coach Brent De Ruyter said after a 3-1 loss to Meridian on Thursday, Sept. 17. “They’ve played so much together and they just want to finish strong together.”
De Ruyter will be the first to say there’s still room for improvement and the formation may evolve throughout the year — currently the Lyncs play a 4-5-1 — but the pieces are there for the Lyncs to continue the early season success.
Last season, the Lyncs scored 14 goals in the first six games before getting shut out in four straight in what was an inconsistent year for finding the net.
“All the seniors are one year older so we got one more year of experience,” Hollander said. “A big change for us is we’re stronger and faster up top. Moving forward, that’s key.”
The Lyncs attack starts from the midfield, mainly Hollander, who was an All-Whatcom County first-teamer last year because of her ability to hold off defenders — “Haley can just take a beating while shes trying to hold the ball,” De Ruyter said — distribute and find the net as well. The senior’s main job is to find a player on the wing, who will then send it into the middle, where Brandsma often waits.
Hollander’s skill at finding targets is well noticed by her teammates.
“It’s really fun. You’re like ‘She’s not going to get it there’ and then she does and you’re like ‘Whoa,’” Brandsma said. “It’s fun to see and fun to get balls from her because they’re always perfect.”
Hollander went on to joke that it’s almost like telepathy the way the two are able to find each other. Given how close Brandsma and Hollander have become that might not be too far from the truth.
“We’re all best buds up there,” Hollander said. “Me and Shaye are together all the time on and off the field and going into next season, we’re together in basketball. We can’t be separated from each other. It’s just chemistry that comes with that too.”
The abundance of goals in the early season certainly helps the confidence, especially when they come in spectacular fashion, such as Hollander’s goal against Meridian, when she shielded the ball from the defender before making the finish look easy.
“It’s huge,” De Ruyter said of finding the net with frequency. “It would be one thing if we were able to distribute like we have been but couldn’t finish. To at least have those numbers put up and have these girls have a bit of confidence ... that’s huge for these girls moving forward.”
The Lyncs (3-3, 1-1 NWC) are looking to continue that success as the competition gets stronger and the games matter in conference play. They’ll face Ferndale Tuesday, Sept. 22, and city rival Lynden on Thursday, Sept. 24. The Lyncs lost 4-3 in the preseason meeting between the two teams.
“We felt last year we peaked a little too early. We’re really focusing on that as a team, as a program,” De Ruyter said. “We have been steadily progressing. That’s what we want. We don’t want this huge jump and then you’re peaking too early and everybody’s passing you at the end.”
Reach Joshua Hart at 360-715-2238 or email@example.com.
Lynden Christian goal scorers