DALLAS — Dallas junior defender Callista Kiner came into the season knowing things would be a bit different for the girls soccer program.
In 2016, Kiner was part of a team that featured nine seniors, many who saw significant playing time. Kiner expected a retooling of sorts this fall.
She wasn’t expecting quite how big of a rebuild was in store.
Only a handful of players have recent soccer experience, Kiner said.
The rest are playing for the first time in years — and some for the first time at all.
“We have a new team,” Kiner said. “We’re learning the ropes, learning the rules and learning what to do on the field.”
The experience has been different for Kiner, who was used playing on squads with teammates who had years of soccer experience behind them.
“I’ve been playing it since I was little,” she said. “It’s just fun to be able to be outside and play with a ball at your feet.”
Adjusting to new teammates and having to build from the ground up hasn’t been easy.
“It’s hard,” Kiner said. “It requires a lot of patience.”
It’s also led Kiner to take on a new role. As a center defender, Kiner helps direct teammates to the right spots.
“The center defense is kind of like the core of the team,” she said. “Besides the goalie, we see everything on the field.”
What’s been more challenging is becoming a leader — and teacher — on the field.
“I think I’ve always been a lead-by-example type of person,” Kiner said. “With this team, I need to be more vocal.”
It’s not just the x’s and o’s of the sport they are teaching.
“Coaching girls is a unique perspective,” coach Kendra Steele said. “It’s kind of awesome, though. The more experienced players get the opportunity to teach the less experienced — or the new — players a whole new game. We thrive because we love soccer. We get to show the other players why we love soccer so much.”
Steele matched experienced players with less experienced ones.
“I want to put them in a big sister or a mentor type of role,” Steele said. “It forces them to speak up and take on that leadership role in a good way. I’ve definitely seen Callista start to speak up more. She also learned that team is more than just self. It’s about all the other girls put together so everyone can achieve more.”
This season also meant players have redefined goals.
The Dragons aren’t worried about wins and losses or the number of goals scored or given up. Instead, it’s about the small victories.
“It’s not all about winning,” Kiner said. “The score, that’s what the fans see. To us, it’s much more than the score. It’s about making small progress. Maybe it’s moving the ball up the field more or having five consecutive passes.”
Progress has been steady.
“We’re much better in our spacing,” Kiner said. “We used to just be clumped together like playing soccer in elementary school.”
The Dragons open Mid-Willamette Conference play by hosting Lebanon Tuesday at 4 p.m. where the challenges will be stiff, but the Dragons know the final score won’t necessarily be indicative of how far they’ve come.
“We’ll be playing our game,” Steele said. “The scoreboard is someone else’s expectation of a win.”