by Ken Brown
CRAFTSBURY – The Craftsbury Academy (CA) girls’ soccer team will enter their second season in the Mountain League this fall with a young and talented squad that is hungry to take the next step under first year head coach Patrick Houle.
Houle replaces Tom Silva after three seasons at the helm that saw him resurrect and increase interest in a soccer program that went away in 2018, but has returned in full force since 2019 with the collective efforts of the school and surrounding community to keep the athletic traditions at CA alive and well. Houle takes over a team that won three games in the daunting Mountain League in 2021. Ida Eames and her team-leading 14 goals are gone, along with the experience of Amelia Eagan, Maggie Royer, and Felicia Flint. All-Mountain League First Team selection Sadie Skorstad leads a talented core of underclassmen returning however, and Houle likes the talent and drive that he’s seen on the pitch at Dustan Field so far.
“Numbers have been surprisingly good so far in practice and we are expecting more once school gets underway. This is a hungry group of talented athletes with very specific individual and team goals. We only have one senior on this team, but there is a lot of young talented athletes around her who have already shown great leadership skills in practice,” said Houle.
Ella Gillespie will be the senior captain this fall and will be expected to anchor the defense from the back third. Skorstad will be a junior captain and will look to build off a sophomore campaign where she was asked to play multiple positions throughout the season and played them all at a high level. Sophia Augsberger rounds out the trio of Lady Charger captains as just a sophomore, but she already has two years of varsity soccer under her belt. Rachel Bailey also returns for her second season in goal and her experience and work ethic will add an extra line of defense. Houle’s United Soccer Coaches level 1 goalkeeper certification should only accelerate Bailey’s development.
“These girls were selected by their teammates and they have been natural leaders and examples in practice. Ella is a very strong defender, she’s been a huge influence in practice so far, and has the ultimate respect from her teammates. Sadie is a great athlete and really sets the tone with her work ethic and how hard she goes in practice. Sophia is a solid midfielder and just has a calm confidence in pressure situations and that confidence that she brings to the field is infectious to the entire team. As a coach you couldn’t ask for a better trio of team leaders to help build a team and a culture,” said Houle.
Houle’s player-centric coaching philosophy is a non-rigid system built around the strength of his players with the hopes of making the game of soccer fun for his entire team. His practices are run with the emphasis on creating game-like experiences that will prepare his student athletes to play in a game at an optimal technical and physical level.
“We will play hard and with honor and my main focus as a coach is on player development. We are really working hard in practice at gaining and maintaining possession in order to control the match. We have a challenging scrimmage ahead of our first match against a tough opponent to start the season, but this group is hungry to compete and that is exciting as a coach to see,” said Houle.
Houle and the Lady Chargers will welcome powerhouse Stowe to town for their season opener on Saturday, before traveling to Winooski next Tuesday.