Wolves focus on post-season goals

Eric Bergeson-coached teams have always been known for one thing — stout defense.

His philosophy has always been to build from the back. And that’s not going to change as his girls soccer team heads in the West Central District tournament today, facing Federal Way at 2 p.m. at Sumner High School.

“I think we definitely build from the back, but I certainly wouldn’t describe our team or our style has just being this way or that way,” Bergeson said. “You have to have balance in any sport.”

But don’t think this year’s team is completely about defense.

Yes, there are the 11 shutouts in 18 games and the fact that only three teams have scored at least two goals on the Wolves all year with Alicia Cleaver in net.

But this is a team that has averaged 3.7 goals a game and has scored 17 times in the last three games.

“We do focus on defense, but I think our offense this year has been outstanding,” Bergeson said. “We’re building toward the end of the year, and the offense is clicking.”

The offense has seen its share of changes over the course of the season, but one constant has been the play of senior Nicole Bussman, who leads the team in points with 23 goals.

Bussman, who has verbally committed to play at Southeast Missouri State, has scored almost a third of the team’s goals this year.

“Obviously, Nicole is a threat,” Bergeson said. “But the whole team is a threat to put one in the net at any point. We like to get our defenders involved in the attack. So I like our balance right now.”

Bussman has used her speed to gain an advantage on the outside for much of the year and often finds herself in a position to score — something she’s done a lot of this season.

“We know Bussman is going to be there. We know if we kick it long she’s going to work her butt off to get there,” said senior co-captain Randee Robinson. “We definitely depend on her for her effort, but it’s not just like Nicole is going to go score our goals and we just depend on her. She knows as well as we do that we all work together to get our goals.”

Bussman, who plays forward, is very aware of that and she doesn’t the label of just a goal scorer.

“I don’t want to be know as a person that is selfish,” Bussman said. “(I get a lot of goals) because of people like Randee or others that have been feeding me the ball.”

Bussman has also dished out plenty of opportunities to her teammates, and Robinson is one who has been benefiting lately, getting three goals in the last two games.

“Randee has been putting the ball in the net consistently toward the end of the season,” Bergeson said. “She’s getting further up and scoring more.”

Robinson, a center midfielder who has committed to the University of Nevada-Reno, sees the offensive numbers increasing mainly because of playing time.

“We’ve been playing with each other for a while, so we’re starting to know where each other is at,” Robinson said. “We’re just playing better as a team and we’re connecting a lot more.”

And it doesn’t matter who is one the field, it seems.

“There have been years where if a certain person was coming on the field, we knew we’d have to pick them up,” Robinson said. “This year, I don’t feel that at all. We get subs in and I feel it’s great. There fresh legs, so let’s go score.”

This team seems to have plenty unsung offensive players who may not score many goals but without them, this team is not in the playoffs. Erin Carpenter, Cassie Brown and Kelsey Penn have played those roles to near-perfection, but two of those who have come to the forefront lately are senior outside mid Sami Stanton and freshman forward Kaitlin Myles.

“Sami has great speed on the outside so she’s always a threat to get behind a team’s defense,” Bergeson said. “Even if she’s not the one doing the scoring, her speed makes the entire defense shift her way. Her hard work and her wheels definitely help us.”

Stanton has worked her way into a starting role up front and has gotten the ball to Bussman on many occasions. In fact, Bussman said she prefers crossing passes from Stanton.

Myles is usually coming off the bench but has made the most of her time. She got her first playoff goal on Monday against Stadium and has become more active as the season has rolled on. In fact, the freshman has a goal and a pair of assists in the last two games.

All four said they like how the offense and defense have been playing together and that most of the goals they get start with a great defensive play.

“I’m very satisfied with the balance between offense and defense,” Bergeson said. “Hopefully, defense will continue to be our foundation and our offense can be creative and fast and energetic. The more people you involve in the attack, the better chance you have of scoring.”

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