KINGWOOD — Girls’ soccer at Preston High is on the rise.
Last season was one of the most successful in recent memory for the Knights on the pitch. Preston’s Olivia Liston was named Big 10 Midfielder of the Year and an all-region and all-state selection, helping lead the Knights to their first winning season since the turn of the decade.
Now, Preston is back into gear preparing for another milestone season. According to head coach Rodney Liston, the focus for this year’s squad is to simply build on the foundation they laid last fall. If it can continue to improve at a similar rate to last year’s squad, Liston believes his team will be a threat.
“We have seven returning starters from a 10-win team and about a dozen freshmen,” he said. “I think we’re really just looking to build on successes from last season.”
The recent success has a large group of athletes turning out for the Knights, which Liston is hopeful will be the next step in bringing the program into the upper echelon of West Virginia soccer.
“We have had 29 total girls come out, which is great for the program,” he said. “That type of turnout lets us build into the future and build interest in the program,” he said.
As it turns out, it appears that there are a few things worthy of interest happening within the squad. The Knights began their WVSSAC three-week summer practices this week, and according to senior center-back Sydney Davis, the atmosphere on the pitch has been electric.
“Practice has been going really well. This group of freshman have a lot to offer, and the returning players have stepped up their game,” she said. “Everyone wants to take what Coach is offering and push themselves to get better.”
Liston also seems excited with what he is seeing from his girls and believes the energy they bring to the game will serve as a solid motivator not only during summer workouts, but as the season begins to unfold.
“I think the group is coming in with good technical skill,” he said. “These girls have a good competitive nature and push each other.”
Unfortunately, despite the solid effort to reverse the losing culture that had begun to build at Preston, the team’s wins last year came with little other success. The team dropped out of the postseason in the sectional semi-finals, and finished a disappointing ninth in the Big 10 Conference. This year, with the foundation laid and the talent in place, Liston expects things will be different.
“We want to take some steps forward from last season. We’re shooting for first or second in the section, and I think we have the ability to do that,” he said. “In the Big 10, I’d like for us in the top third of the conference. I believe that’s a feasible goal.”
If you ask Davis, she has a pretty good idea about how she’d like to chop some losses off their record and ensure a deep postseason run.
“I want to cut the amount of goals scored on us in half,” she said. “Last year we allowed 24. I’d like to bring that down to 12.”
Another focal point of Preston’s strategy is to bring more heat on the offensive end of the pitch. According to Davis, the team has relied on play more defensive-minded games through this season. Now, the Knights are focusing on being able to score the ball more consistently as well.
“These last few years we’ve built a good defensive background,” he said. “Now I’d like to work on our attack.”
When Davis heard her coach’s comments, it was a sentiment which she could agree on.
“I think we have some good forwards. I’d like to mix it up a little,” she said.