Thunder rolls up its sleeves in preparation for league

Rocklin battles Davis, St. Francis
By: Jim Linsdau
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ROCKLIN– The Rocklin High girls soccer team may be running into some rough spots during the preseason, but they are not backing away from the challenges.


After suffering a number of lost practices and matches because of the smoke from the Camp Fire, the Thunder upped their schedule to get ready for life in the Sierra Foothill League.


After losing their opener to Roseville, the girls in blue went on a three-game winning streak, defeating Vista del Lago, Woodcreek and Placer.


Then things got a little rough.


The wins over the Timberwolves and Hillmen came in the Rocklin Invitational Tournament, which concluded with a 3-0 loss to St. Francis. However, the tougher the competition, the better Thunder head coach Grant DePue feels it will make his team.


“Let’s make sure we’ve got all of our lineups adjusted and we don’t get messed up because in the Sierra Foothill League, there is no down game,” DePue said. “We have to make sure that we’re battle tested.”


Although six players have returned for their senior season, DePue said that was about one-third of the junior class he had last year. However, he said those who chose not to return paid their respects and departed to prepare for life after high school.


“We got six returnees,” said DePue. “I love the ladies that didn’t come back; I gave them a hug, no issue there.”


The coach said the move to winter, two years of year-round soccer and the fact none of the girls were planning to play soccer in college were all factors in their not returning.


He does have one college-bound player, who is a game-maker. With Stanford University in her future, she is making the best of her senior season.


“On the talent scale, we have one of the elite athletes, and that’s Madison Ayson,” DePue said. “She’s so graceful. When she strides out, she just explodes. So, she’s definitely a level above everybody else.”


However, the coach said the rest of the Thunder players show up for practice, work hard and give it their all in matches.


“They’re more work ethic and chemistry and soccer-smart, and academic-smart,” said DePue. “It’s kind of fun doing girls sports because I don’t do any grade checks. They’re pretty studious at Rocklin.”


He said because of the preseason delays, the team is still working on who is going to play what position and who is going to be the backup. Dropping a 5-0 decision at Davis Friday was an indication the team is still working on rotation issues, but the Blue Devils do not make that easy.


Still, the coach said he is excited about the season and thinks that his younger players are going to develop into something special. DePue has three freshmen and four sophomores on the varsity roster.


“It’s just a lot of fun working with these young ladies,” DePue said. “They show up and smile; they say thank you every day. They’ve got great character.”


SFL play begins Jan. 4 when Folsom comes calling.