New field, new attitude
Comets put 2017 season in past
By Greg Seubert
Talk about a home field advantage.
The Waupaca girls’ soccer team will play its home games this season on Comet Field, the artificial turf field that is also home to Waupaca High School’s boys’ soccer, football and track teams.
“We believe it’s really going to be an advantage for us this year,” coach Mark Polebitski said March 29 after the Comets prepared for the season with a scrimmage against Amherst.
“The girls are really getting a feel of the turf,” he said. “They understand how the ball is going to react to the turf, how high it’s going to bounce and they’re better at controlling it. The girls pass much better on this turf than on the grass. It’s hard to teach kicking techniques on our practice field. Here, it’s like we’re on a lush, green field and their skills are developing at a faster pace.”
Besides playing on a new field, the Comets also have a new attitude after a winless season last year.
“We have a good freshman class coming up this year and there are three of those players that are going to contribute on the varsity level,” Polebitski said. “More than that, it’s just one more year of experience for a team that was pretty inexperienced last year.
“We moved the ball better today than we did in our last game last season,” he added. “We’re already better than we were last year. It’s a great group of girls who are enthusiastic about soccer and their work ethic every day in practice is second to none.”
The Comets opened the season at home April 3 against Stevens Point and will host New Holstein at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 5.
This year’s team includes senior Jocybeth Barraza, who is penciled in as the Comets’ goalkeeper.
“She was a little hesitant at the beginning of the year and didn’t quite know where she wanted to play,” Polebitski said. “I think she was seeing herself playing some place in the midfield, but when it came down to asking the girls who wanted to try out for this position, we didn’t have very many takers. Jocybeth showed some enthusiasm in practice and we put her in tonight. She made all the routine saves. They got a couple of goals on a direct kick and a PK (penalty kick), but she showed a lot of confidence out there. She was directing kids out there all game long in a positive manner and the kids were responding.”
Other varsity players include seniors Emma Pagel and Ally Spierings, who played on the junior varsity team as juniors.
“We have a really good defensive mindset with girls who take pride in defending their net, somebody who doesn’t care about the glamour of scoring goals, just the pride of stopping the other team,” Polebitski said. “We’re probably going to have only 15 girls on that varsity team, so that only gives us about four subs,” Polebitski said. “The JV team is only going to have 12 or 13 (players), but at least we’re going to have two teams.”
Waupaca will begin its third season in the North Eastern Conference with Clintonville, Denmark, Fox Valley Lutheran, Freedom, Little Chute, Luxemburg-Casco, Marinette and Wrightstown.
“The North Eastern Conference is a very good soccer conference and we struggled the first two years,” Polebitski said. “I would say that we’re not going to be at the bottom and we’re not going to be at the top. We’re probably going to be someplace in the middle. Where that’s going to go really depends on where the other teams pan out. We’re looking to compete better than we did the last couple of years.”
Polebitski, the driving force behind starting WHS’s soccer program in the early 1990s, is retiring as a computer science teacher after the 2017-18 school year, which means this will be his final season as coach.
“It’s been a lot of years here coaching the boys and girls,” he said. “It’s 960 varsity matches, not including the seven years it was a club (program) for the boys and the one year it was a club for the girls. I remember all those games.
“Being on the new turf field makes it very special,” he said. “It’s going to be a great season, win lose or draw.”