Fraser High girls soccer looks to keep momentum going

By: Mark Vest | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published April 15, 2019

 Fraser High senior Matison Gennette eyes the ball during a game against Romeo High April 10. Coach Paul Kepler said Fraser has eight seniors on the squad this year.

Fraser High senior Matison Gennette eyes the ball during a game against Romeo High April 10. Coach Paul Kepler said Fraser has eight seniors on the squad this year.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 Fraser High junior Leonora Prekaj looks ahead during a recent game against Romeo High. Last season, the Ramblers won the program’s first district title since 2011.

Fraser High junior Leonora Prekaj looks ahead during a recent game against Romeo High. Last season, the Ramblers won the program’s first district title since 2011.

Photo by Donna Agusti

FRASER — Last season was one that Fraser High girls soccer coach Paul Kepler said was “very, very special” for him.

After previously serving as an assistant with the program, last season was his first leading the Ramblers.

Taking over at Fraser was no ordinary assignment for Kepler, as he is a 2004 graduate of the school.

After getting the job, he proceeded to help lead the program to its first district championship since 2011.

“It’s been amazing,” Kepler said. “I went to high school there; I grew up in the city of Fraser. I coached club soccer for many years in the city. So just being back, kind (of) like my hometown, it’s a great feeling. … I’ve been part of many district titles and different runs and stuff, but to be a head coach — and to do that at my alma mater — it was amazing.”

After Fraser’s season ended with a regional semifinal loss to Troy High last year, Kepler was already thinking about the “senior-loaded” team he would have to work with this season.

He said there are eight seniors on the squad who were a part of last year’s district championship.

Kepler said the experience those seniors gained last season was “huge.”

“That was the first district title in seven years,” he said. “So those seniors experienced it now, what it takes to get to that level.”

One of the seniors who gained championship experience last year was Madison Saleh.

“I feel like that gave us a taste of winning and what it’s like to be there, so I think that’s really what we’re striving for this year,” Saleh said. “If anything, it’s expected.”

Josie Van Gampelaere would like to come away from her senior season with a Macomb Area Conference White Division and district title.

“A lot of us have been together on this team since, like, freshman year,” Van Gampelaere said. “Winning that would be a big deal for us.”

Aside from having an experienced squad, Kepler also has one that he said is close.

“I think that was another thing going into last year. On and off the field, the girls did so many events together, and so many team-bonding things,” Kepler said. “They were so tight off the field that I think that helped us build going into last year. I think the same thing’s happening right now. … They’re all in the right mindset right now. Every time they step on the field, they’re playing for one another.”

Including at the club level, Kepler has coached some of Fraser’s players for “many, many years.”

With this being the last year he gets to do so, there is a very human element to this season.

“Knowing this is the last stop right here for us, there’s a little emotional part to it,” Kepler said. “But at the same time, it’s very exciting knowing that we’ve had this journey together over these last six, seven, eight years. And knowing that this is the end of it, we (want to) continue that as long as possible going into postseason. So that’s kind (of) special to me.”

Aside from his veterans, Kepler said Fraser has a “very good incoming freshman class this year,” which is yet another reason to be enthusiastic about the Ramblers’ 2019 campaign.

“I truly feel like adding (the) freshmen that we added to our roster this year, I feel like we’re deeper,” Kepler said. “With the talent level that we have, the talent in the program not just this year, but years to follow, it’s looking very, very good for us. … I’m very excited.”

At press time, the Ramblers were 0-1-3 overall and had not played a game in the MAC White Division.

Up next, Fraser plays at 5:30 p.m. April 19 at home against Rochester Hills Stoney Creek.