Thompson Girl’s Soccer Program Looks For Breakthrough Year
It’s been just over five years since Daniel DeMasters matriculated down I️-65 to Thompson High School after building an elite program at Oak Mountain. Now, having to build a program from the ground up and laying the foundation, DeMasters’ first eighth grade class are now seniors and the time to break through is now.
“We have some new girls we think will be impact players, but we do have a lot back and a big senior class,” says DeMasters. “That’s the stuff we’re excited about, I’ve been excited about this senior class for a while so I think this is the year we can break through. Once you’re in the dance, anything can happen.”
The entire culture of Thompson soccer has changed, from technical skills to student-athletes playing year-round. It’s what’s necessary to succeed in the Birmingham area where 14 of the last 15 state champions have emerged.
“The standards of these girls playing year-round, the development of them playing club and also coming into our system, it’s night and day,” says DeMasters. “Between how we were starting the preseason five years ago to where we can start now is completely different and this class is very near and dear to my heart.”
One of those seniors is Marlee Roach who has started for DeMasters in the midfield every year since he arrived her eighth grade year. Roach and her teammates had the 2020 season stolen from them by the coronavirus pandemic after a strong start and now the sense of urgency is paramount amongst the Warriors.
“Last year was my junior year and it hit me like ‘Oh we’ve got to go’ because we don’t have that much time left and we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Roach. “So from there, we’ve focused on what we have and how we can keep going.”
DeMasters teaches a defense-heavy system, but after barely missing the playoffs the last two year due to goal differential, his philosophy is evolving with a solid senior-laden backfield that has his trust.
“Having senior leaders on defense. Senior goalie, senior back line for the most part and Marlee as a defensive center mid for us, we’re going to take some more chances now moving the ball up and playing with some more numbers,” says DeMasters. “Now, we have a youthful attack, but I think putting more numbers up there will give us more chances to score goals and win more games.”
“It’s a new formation, we’re going to have a little bit of fun with it,” says DeMasters. “It’s something that we’ve never done before, our staff put it together and it should be new and exciting.”
The players are enthusiastic about the opportunity to be aggressive and increase their chances on the offensive end of the pitch. Putting up numbers and pressure on opposing defenses won’t be a problem in 2023. Senior backfielder Ella Dunaway doesn’t want her team to hold back in their quest for a playoff bid.
“We’ve always prioritized defense in the past years, but this year we just want to score and not worry about goal differential to get to the playoffs. We want to just take it, score the goals and set our place in the playoffs.”
Roach is excited for the underclassmen coming up to contribute and says the younger players bring something extra to the team with this new formation.
“One thing we like about our formation is we have a lot of younger girls on the attack and they just bring a lot of energy and creativity,” says Roach.
One of those young players is sophomore Dia Montiel-Duenas who clocked an eye-popping 19 goals in her freshman campaign. Giving her more help on the front end will alleviate some of the pressure and allow her to operate more freely within the offense. The new crop of younger players coming to her aid are a different breed, fully immersed in the technical evolution of the sport, courtesy of DeMasters and his staff.
“Even for our new players, we focus a lot on culture,” said Marlee Roach. “If we all get along, we’re obviously going to play better and we really enjoy our time practicing together and just generally hanging out with one another.”
That culture the coaching staff has fostered over recent years has been felt up and down the roster and the Warriors look like a dangerous team—something they’ll need facing top 10 opponents Hoover and Vestavia in their area.
“We’re super thankful for the coaching staff all coming from the collegiate level, because they just know what they’re doing,” said Roach. “They all genuinely care, when they’re yelling at you you know it’s from their heart, even the new girls know they have our best interests at heart. It’s just brings a different energy because you know how badly the coaching staff wants it.”
The pieces of the puzzle are coming together in Alabaster and it sets up for a breakthrough year for the Thompson girls soccer program.