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Towards the close of a recent Riverside-Brookfield girls soccer team practice, the players, while jogging some laps, broke into a spontaneous, laugh-filled rendition of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
The Ashford and Simpson song, also performed by the football players in a memorable scene from the film Remember the Titans, seems like an appropriate anthem for the Bulldogs.
While RB certainly faces several challenges entering the season fresh off a 2011 campaign that included just a handful of victories, the program appears well-positioned to rise. RB boys soccer coach Danny Makaric is the girls' new head coach, taking over for Marisa Dobbertin, who laid a solid foundation with several skilled players back this spring. Ivek Halic, the sophomore girls soccer coach, will assist Makaric on the varsity level.
"It's going to be a challenge but I think we'll have a pretty good team," Makaric said. "I can see some changes with some girls playing different positions from previous years. I will coach the girls program similar to how I handle the boys [soccer program]."
The Bulldogs boast several players with multiple years of varsity experience. Senior center midfielder Idalia Rodriguez returns to RB after spending a year attending high school in Albuquerque, N.M. Rodriguez attended RB her freshman and sophomore years.
"It was kind of awkward at first," Rodriguez said about the move to New Mexico. "I got the hang of it, but I missed Chicago and I'm happy to back at RB. We're still connecting as a team, but I'm looking forward to hopefully winning a regional and a sectional."
If the Bulldogs achieve those lofty postseason aspirations or even simply yield better results, senior defensive midfielder Katy Linhart and senior forward Carmen Shelbrack will also play key roles. Linhart is a very skilled all-around player while Shelbrack scored 17 goals for a fall team that included many RB players.
"We kind of know of what's expected at the varsity level," Linhart said. "It's a lot faster game and there's more expected of you. [Coach Dobbertin and coach Makaric] have completely different styles but they are both fun coaches to play for. We have good team speed this year."
Left outside midfielder Brittany Janney along with promising defenders Salem Baer and Caroline Waas are other key returners. Senior goalkeeper Elena Duve, who also starred on the RB girls basketball team, is an athletic, tall player who provides ample leadership and competitiveness.
The Bulldogs will likely employ a patient 4-4-2 attack but with plenty of wiggle room for in-game adjustments.
The Bulldogs will also host several key Metro Suburban conference games, most notably against Fenton (April 12), Glenbard South (April 19) and Ridgewood (May 1).
"I like to play a challenging schedule," Makaric said. "It's the best way to test your team and make improvements."