WALKERSVILLE — Following Thursday night’s 3-0 road win over Walkersville, Oakdale girls soccer coach Aric Canonico was credited by his players for keeping them in a positive frame of mind and not dwelling on the things that don’t go their way.
In previous seasons, that job description might have seemed a little more formidable for Canonico.
But, this season, the Bears are talented, experienced and finally at full health. They seem ready to have one of the best seasons in school history. Through three games so far, they have outscored the opposition 11-0.
Keeping the team upbeat, on task and feeling good about itself might not seem like the tallest order. Then, junior captain Lauren Truelove offered this blunt reminder as a nod to her coach.
“We are a bunch of high school girls,” she said.
Oakdale (3-0) seems to have all of the pieces to make a serious run at a state championship in Class 2A. When the Bears won one during their inaugural season as a 1A school in 2010, nobody really saw it coming until it actually happened. That would not be the case with this team.
The Bears have two of the best strikers in the county in senior Kiersten Yuhas and junior Sam Foster, one of the top midfielders in senior Megan Connor and one of the best goalkeepers in senior Kaitlyn Burns. No one questions their ability to score or defend.
Foster and Connor are back from injuries that kept them from playing most of last season.
“For the first time, I have all three pieces. We have talent. We have depth, and we have leadership,” said Canonico, who is in the early stages of his fourth season as Oakdale’s coach. “We have not had depth, and we have not had leadership at times. But this year, we have all three in spades.”
The team chemistry is apparent, too, as the players regularly talk about their togetherness.
During preseason training, Foster, one of the best athletes on the team, was fading during a running session as she worked her way back into shape following a collarbone injury. But then teammate Alyssa Martin pulled up beside her and encouraged her to keep going.
“She was running right next to me screaming, ‘If you fail, then I fail, too,’” Foster recalled. “She was there to push me to my fullest limit.”
Walkersville (1-2-1), which just played reigning 3A champion Linganore to a scoreless draw, wasn’t able to match up with the Bears.
Yuhas scored Oakdale’s first goal near the midpoint of the first half when she pounced on a loose ball in the Lions’ goal box. Foster followed 12 minutes into the second half with a great individual effort, and then senior Abi Church capped the scoring in the final seven minutes off of a free kick.
“They are athletic. They move well. They are well-organized,” Walkersville coach Paul Bryan said of Oakdale. “They have got a pretty good soccer IQ over there.”
Asked about his team’s potential this season, Canonico said, “I would hope we could go further than we did last year, make it to the regional final and see what happens.”