When Michael Markette took over the Mountain Pointe girls soccer program, there was already a strong culture surrounding the team.
But he wanted one that would cater to his style of coaching, and one girls coming up in the program would easily buy into. Now in his third season leading the Pride, he’s starting to see the culture shift.
“Our captains and our underclassmen do a great job of leading that culture. They are all on the same page and they all fight for each other," Markette said. "That’s one of the things I love the most about this program, every girl that steps on the field fights for the girl next to her.
“I’ve seen that drastically change over the last few years.”
Markette inherited a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 2014. In his first year, he led the Pride to an 11-9-3 record and appearance in the 6A Conference tournament.
However, Mountain Pointe ran into a Xavier program that went on to win the title.
“I think playing a team like that was a bit of a shock for us,” Markette said of the 2018 tournament game. “But now, with the schedule we’ve played, I don’t think anyone will surprise us.”
Mountain Pointe has played the toughest schedule in the 6A Conference this season. Its faced nearly every team in the top-10 at this point of the season.
Despite a 4-8-1 record heading into Friday’s match against fourth-ranked Basha, the Pride remain in position to host a play-in game, as they are ranked 15th in the AIA rankings after a win over Basha Monday.
“I think our hard schedule prepares them,” Markette said. “There’s really nobody that can shock them. They’re going to be like, ‘well, we’ve been here before.’ Playing against those teams shows us if that is where we want to be as a program, this is what we have to do.
“It keeps our eyes on our longtime goal as a program.”
Markette has relied on seniors to help the younger players navigate through the difficult schedule. Katherine Matson, a forward, middle fielder and defender, and Kristen Kopplin, the team’s goaltender, were voted as captains this season.
Kopplin, who won MVP of the team the last two seasons, has been instrumental in Mountain Pointe’s ability to compete with the top teams. She entered Tuesday’s match against Basha with 140 saves.
Her individual success in goal isn’t something she thinks about. To her, it’s all about the relationship she’s formed. That’s why she continued playing soccer after thoughts of walking away.
“I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with soccer,” Kopplin said. “I tend to get really nervous for games but what kept me playing was the girls. It’s an experience you’ll never get anywhere else, playing a high school sport.”
Kopplin has stepped up as a leader both on and off the field. She admits it’s been a challenge, especially after spending the last two seasons observing as the previous seniors led the way.
But now, she recognizes it's on her, Matson and the other seniors to prepare players like junior forward Lindsey Logan to take over and continue building the program.
“I want the younger girls to look back and say, ‘remember when they did that? We should do that,’” Kopplin said. “I want to be a role model to all the upcoming girls.”
Logan has been key to Mountain Pointe’s offense this season. She has a team-high five goals and five assists.
She aims to build the Mountain Pointe soccer program to a prolific status. She wants to compete for state titles each season but knows the amount of dedication it will take to make that happen.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve taken it upon myself to make this program better,” Logan said. “We need people to lift it up and keep it going as strong as it used to be. I have felt the need to step up and help any way I can.”
With two games remaining, Mountain Pointe has the ability to enter the post season on a high note. Like the Pride have all season, they will continue to fight in every match, win or lose.
At this point, that’s become the only way they know how to play the game.
“We are a team that fights during every game,” Logan said. “Even if it’s a tough opponent, we want to have a good battle. We need to continue that and come together as a group.”