The Yale girls soccer team is 0-2 to start the season, but it’s already had the biggest win in program history this year.
In the winter, the team was elevated from club to varsity status, making it a full member of the Blue Water Area Conference and entering it into the Michigan High School Athletic Association postseason for the first time.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Yale coach Cora Heyboer said. “I figured it would be maybe another year. We went in at the same time as a girls golf, and I wondered if they would allow two at the same time.
“I was very excited to tell the team and talk to the people who have supported us.”
The program is in its fourth year, building toward varsity status under Heyboer, a fourth-year teacher who grew up in Port Huron before attending Central Michigan University. In order to get to the varsity level, the team had to prove it was growing in number in successive years, that it could be competitive and that it could fund itself.
The team grew to 26 a year ago, has had some successful fundraisers, and has played a schedule that closely mirrors its BWAC counterparts.
“It’s very exciting,” Heyboer said. “The girls are overwhelmed with excitement. It means they can compete for a scholarship and can put it on their college applications.”
Of course, getting things started wasn’t exactly easy.
“The first year was difficult,” Heyboer said. “It was exciting, but difficult because there weren’t a whole of people that say, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll play you.’
“(Girls stayed motivated by) just the anticipation of making the sport varsity, that drew the girls interest. Or beating schools that were varsity, that was interesting.”
To grow the sport, Heyboer had to be not only a coach, but a marketer.
“I think that it’s more popular because we’ve been promoting it,” she said. “We have a really good group of girls that have been with me from the beginning. The guys team, we’ve been working with those coaches, too.”
With their main goal of becoming a varsity sport now accomplished, the Bulldogs have to create some new goals for the season and beyond.
“We want to be competitive this year,” Heyboer said. “Starting off in our first year we’re competing against teams that have built their program and have established their system, so it’s not realistic to say we’re going to go out there and beat everyone. We want to get some respect for the team.
“We also want to grow with the guys team and build that program within Yale.”
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.