The girls' soccer team at Northwestern High School could round a sharp corner this year with second-year head coach Bret Loes at the helm, and veterans Fatim Camara and Lateefat Yusuff leading the offense.
Although the Wildcats started 4-1 last year, academic ineligibility and injuries later in the season resulted in a 7-6 finish.
Ultimately, Northwestern lost in the first round of the regional playoffs.
This August marks a new chapter for the soccer program at the school. With new leaders and captains on the team, a positive attitude in place, and two weeks of practice under their belts, Northwestern is quickly preparing for their first game on Sept. 8 against Charles Flowers High School.
Leading the offensive charge this season will be Camara and Yusuff, a senior and junior respectively, who will fill gaps at forward and right-midfield.
"They are my two key players," Loes said. "They're very effective as far as communicating with each other, keeping the midfield tight together, and getting the ball in the goal."
Both Camara and Yusuff recognize that their roles on the team reach farther than simply getting the ball in the back of the net.
"I also play a leadership role on this team," Camara said. "The rest of the team is mostly freshmen and sophomores. There aren't that many upperclassmen. I work to help the newcomers get adjusted to what we're doing."
Yusuff is aggressive in her leadership as well.
"I always make sure that everyone comes to practice and that everyone is hyped when they get here," she said. "We can't have anyone slacking."
While the production of the team's leaders seems to be a sure bet, there is still plenty of work to be done in preparation for the match against Flowers. As of Aug. 24, 18 girls had shown up for practice. Loes expects to split at least 25 girls between JV and varsity, but has hopes of as many as 30 committing to play by the time the first official whistle is blown.
Additionally, of the three starting seniors that graduated last year, just two have been replaced. The third, a goalkeeper, has yet to be supplanted. However, Loes seems unfazed by the current lack of personnel.
"I have a lot of freshman coming up so I'll see what they can do," he said. "I think I can get them built up so that they're part of an effective team this year."
While preliminary goals are on the coach's mind, Yusuff is looking further into the future.
"This year I want to beat Bowie [High School]," she said. "We need to beat Bowie. Also we need to get at least to the second round of the playoffs. We always lose early in the playoffs to Bowie or Roosevelt [High School], so we need to beat Bowie and get past the second round."
Yusuff and the rest of the Wildcats' first shot at taking down Bowie will be on Oct. 15 in their last regular season game of the year.
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