Larry Fleming can easily recall the uphill struggle he had when he started up the Aberdeen High School girls’ soccer program in 1992.
“We didn’t have uniforms. We didn’t have any equipment,” Fleming remembers. “We had nothing.”
Despite all the obstacles, Fleming was able to build the Bobcats up and eventually take them to the state playoffs in just their fifth season. Two more state appearances followed before he stepped down in 2002.
Now, 15 years later, Fleming returns to the position he started, becoming the fourth head coach the program has had over the last four seasons.
Thankfully, Fleming doesn’t have to concern himself with locating uniforms or equipment this time around.
Another aspect which should make his second stint with the team considerably easier than it was 25 years ago is the fact Aberdeen will feature one of the top goalkeepers in 2A Evergreen Conference this season in senior Reagan Glanz.
“We definitely didn’t have a goalie like her when I started here last time,” Fleming said. “I think she’s going to be one of, if not the best goalie in the league.”
A strong goalkeeper will go a long way in an EvCo that is bursting at the seams with offensive talent.
Tumwater returns several key scoring threats from a squad that captured the league championship last season, while runner-up Black Hills welcomes back an abundance of firepower as well, led by last season’s conference offensive MVP Sydney Lowe.
It’s a challenge Glanz is looking forward to facing.
“As a goalie you like seeing that (much offensive talent) because you know you’re going to get a lot of shots taken at you, which is super fun,” said Glanz, who was a second-team all-conference pick as a junior. “Of course, you don’t want to see too many shots because you do want to win.”
The Bobcats finished fourth in the EvCo last season, securing the conference’s final district playoff seed, in their first year back in the conference after four years away. Aberdeen, which graduated seven seniors, many who were starters, from last year’s roster, saw its 2016 season end with back-to-back district losses.
“This league is definitely better than the 1A Evergreen we had been playing in,” Glanz said. “Tumwater and Black Hills have a lot more girls who play on travel teams and more girls going to college for soccer. It’s great having played in the league last year. We now know what everyone does and what level the competition is at. It should help this year.”
Glanz will be backed heavily this season by fellow senior Taylor Coker, a second-team all-conference defender in 2016.
The two represent the only four-year varsity players on the young Bobcats’ squad.
“We’re really young. A majority of our kids are going to be freshmen or sophomores. We have a few juniors and not a lot of seniors. So to have some really good senior leadership is huge,” Fleming said about the roles Glanz and Coker will play. “Reagan in the goal is going to be great and Taylor is going to be a really good defender. We’re going to rely on them a lot this year as this group matures over time.”
Fleming is no stranger to guiding Aberdeen soccer programs to success as he has turned the boys’ team into a perennial state playoff contender. Under Fleming’s watch the Bobcats captured their 10th league championship over the last 12 seasons in May.
Fleming received recognition as the 2A Evergreen Conference coach of the year in 2016 after guiding Aberdeen to a second-place finish at the district tournament and a trip to the state tournament.
“We’re really excited we have a new coach,” Glanz said. “We definitely have a lot of respect for him and what he’s done with the boys’ team. We’ve had a lot more girls show up for summer workouts than we had in previous years. This was the highest turnout since I’ve been here. We lost so many good seniors. They were the heart of our team, but we have a lot of upcoming girls who will hopefully fill the roles.”
One change from previous seasons was the girls’ increased participation in open field play during the summer, where they would frequently line up against members of the boys’ team.
“It pushes us,” said Glanz, who also plays basketball and fastpitch, about the intergender matchups. “Once the girls got over the fact they were competing against the guys they got right in there and started playing hard. It was fun to see.”
After the Bobcats annual alumni game at Stewart Field on September 2, they bean regular season play with non-conference games against Elma and Montesano. Conference play begins on September 28 at 7 p.m. against WF West.
“We plan on putting everything out there this season,” said Glanz, who hopes to play fastpitch next year at the University of Montana. “I just want to embrace this last year of soccer.”