Building a successful program from the ground up always takes time, and it's been no different for the Riverside-Brookfield soccer program.
The Bulldogs, entering their fourth year of playing varsity soccer, still aren't ready to be a consistent winner, but they are ready to compete with other teams. And for once they have an advantage they've never had?"a deep roster.
RB graduated only two seniors from last year's squad, and have 12 seniors on this year's edition. With more experience and talent than ever, the Bulldogs hope to steal a few more wins.
"Last year was a transition year," RB coach Laurie Kosey said. "But the team has changed in chemistry dramatically. The one thing we didn't always have was leadership. This year we have a strong base and that will help dramatically. As long as injuries don't set us back, we'll be competitive."
Senior co-captains Danielle Schoenhieder and Elizabeth Maskill highlight the returnees. Schoenhieder brings speed and skill to the forward position and Maskill has speed and is expected to be a vocal leader of the defender corps.
Erica Viskcarello returns valuable experience in goal and Anna Patterson, who Kosey says has excellent vision of the entire field, will act as the team's nucleus from the midfielder position.
Tiffany Mough and Jenny Gara have locked up spots as starting defenders. Every other position is open for competition, but with a lot of experienced options at Kosey's disposal, the coach may opt for a rotation of players.
It is RB's hope that the team will soon perennially have the kind of depth with which its starting this season. While most successful soccer schools have deep feeder programs?"lower level club teams that turn out players that already have refined soccer skills?"the Bulldogs' own feeders are still in their infancy.
But with the club teams in the RB area picking up steam, the Bulldogs hope the days where the majority of their players begin their high school careers with little soccer experience are nearing an end.
"The bulk of the interested is at the lower age levels, but that's good because they'll be there later," Kosey said. "It's definitely a process."
The Bulldogs opened their season Monday afternoon at Sycamore (after deadline), an out-of-division Suburban Prairie team that should give RB an early season challenge. That will be followed by an April 7 game at conference rival Lemont. Westmont again figures to be at the top of the Suburban Prairie standings, while Fenton, Ridgewood, Elmwood Park and Lemont all have established programs.
RB doesn't have its sights set on lofty goals such as a conference or regional title, but with where the Bulldogs find themselves in the building process, that's not yet how they measure success.
"We haven't always been able to be competitive with most teams in the past," Kosey said. "This year, even if we don't get a lot of wins, we should be competitive with almost every team we take the field against."