Van Meter kicks off first season for girls and boys soccer program

Megan Teske
Correspondent

A new season of spring sports may have looked a little different for residents of Van Meter.

A new soccer program for both girls and boys has started up after years of Van Meter and Adel combining to make a soccer team.

“I think they saw the numbers rising… and people beyond my pay grade thought we could support it in the community and started the process awhile ago,” girls soccer head coach Tim Jacobs said of the idea behind the new program.

Boys soccer head coach Jonah Waldron said there was “definitely a need” for a soccer program at Van Meter because the number of players was starting to grow. 

Along with the new program came a new field and practice area for the programs as well, which Jacobs said came about simultaneously with the new program.

Hallie Levi looks to move the ball for Van Meter during a tournament on April 17 in Newton.

Both Jacobs and Waldron expressed their interest and applied to become head coach.

Jacobs learned he had to get a coaching endorsement to get the job, while Waldron moved back from Colorado after hearing about the new boys soccer program.

“Once I heard that there’s a soccer team, a brand-new soccer team at Van Meter, I wanted to have the chance to coach that and contacted Van Meter and said I was interested,” Waldron said.

Between the junior varsity and varsity teams, there are 27 players on the girls team and 28 on the boys team with a variety of experience levels.

“We have a couple, not too many, club players and then we just have some quality athletes and then we have players that have never played before,” Waldron said. “It’s a good combination.”

Van Meter's Shae Bernhardt in action on Saturday, April 17 during a tournament in Newton.

Shae Bernhardt, a junior who plays midfield and goalie, is one of the more experienced players on the girls team. Bernhardt has been playing soccer since she was young and started playing competitively when she was around 11 or 12 years old.

“It’s great for the program that we’re starting it now and we’re making history and it feels really, really great,” Bernhardt said.

Bernhardt said they have a lot of great players, but the big thing was having to bring all of the talent together.

“I knew we would be good,” she said. “I think we’re playing together a lot more than we all expected, which is great.”

Van Meter's Ryder Koons in action against North Polk on Friday, April 30.

Waldron said the Bulldogs have been working hard to improve their tactics and build a good defensive shape.

He is really happy with where they are for the first season and said he preaches hard work and focus to the team every practice.

Waldron has also seen some of the more experienced players on the team take on a leadership role to help the players who don’t have as much experience, including junior Reece Chappell and freshman Kaleb Myers.

“[Myers] also is a quality leader even as a freshman too cause he brings a lot of that quality but … he stays after and helps out players after practice, things like that, both of them do,” Waldron said.

Both coaches  have enjoyed getting to know the players and building relationships during the program's first year.

Van Meter's Clare Kelly in action during a tournament game on Saturday, April 17 in Newton.

“Build[ing] a program from scratch is a pretty unique opportunity,” Jacobs said. “It only comes around basically once for every school.”

With this season only being the first, there are still many things the Van Meter soccer programs can accomplish in the future.

Waldron wants to develop a tradition of hard work and team-centered play in future seasons.

“I also want to get us to the top level or the best level that we can be at and continue to grow from there,” Waldron said.

Ben Gordon looks to move the ball past a North Polk player on Friday, April 30.