In high school sports, a common way to denote a player’s experience is by class year. The newcomers are labeled underclassmen and the veterans upperclassmen. High school sports see upperclassmen graduate after spending three to four years within a program. Often times, successful seasons depart with each graduating class. For the Trumansburg Girl’s Soccer team, the overwhelming presence of youth might just be the key to success.This season the Blue Raiders have found themselves rostered by a squad that is more than 70 percent compiled by freshmen and sophomores, or underclassmen. Of the 22 girls on the team, Head Coach Scott Stewart oversees seven freshmen and nine sophomores. “It’s been great for our program here in Trumansburg to have large numbers from underclassmen the last few years,” said Stewart. The underclassman population has certainly paid off for the Blue Raiders as they fired out of the gate with a 5-0 record. On the starting 11, Stewart starts four sophomores and two freshmen, with more underclassmen getting playing time through substitutions. “All of the underclassmen are out to get playing time,” said Stewart. “We have 22 girls in our program this year and the competition amongst themselves for playing time is mostly contributed from the underclassmen.”As with most sports, a large number of underclassmen might raise some concerns. Younger players often bring inexperience to the field. For Stewart, the youthfulness of his team is not a cause for concern thanks to his upperclassman leadership. “Last year, we had a senior class that really took the younger girls under their wing and pushed them beyond their limits,” he said. “This year is no different.”Mentoring younger players is one of the most pivotal roles of any upperclassman, especially a senior class. Seniors are often looked to for guidance because of the multiple years within a program. For the Blue Raiders seniors, their tenure with the program has cultivated a must-win mentality. “These seniors want to win, and they know how hard you have to work to get there,” said Stewart. “That’s something these older girls have taught the younger girls.”The seniors certainly have passed along their desire to win to each girl on the team. In most contests in the early portion of the season, the team has powered their way past opponents, often winning by multiple goal margins.While the strong play by the squad has impressed Stewart, he knows that, like his current upperclassmen players, the current underclassmen are preparing for even more success as the school years move on. “The development has led to our success over the last few years,” Stewart said. While the goal for any coach is to put the right players in the right positions to collect victories, the Blue Raiders coach is mixing the best of both worlds. In multiple games this season, Stewart has played younger players in earned minutes to test their abilities. While maintaining control of the game, Stewart allows his players the opportunities to get in-game minutes and begin the developmental process that will take the career of each girl. “Whenever you are able to work with a large number of freshman and sophomores for three to four years it’s a good thing,” Stewart said. The long-term development of the freshmen and sophomores produces high-quality results for Blue Raiders, but also adds a special joy for Stewart. “Watching them develop over those three to four years is what keeps me going as a coach,” he said.Beyond the current team, Stewart sees a promising future within the program and the Trumansburg soccer community. “Knowing that we will have good numbers for the next three to four years is a huge plus,” he said, “We also have strong numbers in modified and in our local club, Taughannock soccer.” With strong numbers waiting to arrive at the high school level, it would seem as though a steady flow of development and success is in store for the Blue Raiders for years to come.
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