The Montezuma-Cortez High School Lady Panthers soccer team came within one percentage point of the state playoffs last season after finishing 8-6-1.
One year later, that sour taste still remains and the Lady Panthers are determined to make the post-season.
We should make a pretty good run this year, M-CHS coach Bobby Sitton said. We were right there last year and literally missed out by a point. You work that hard and play that hard the entire season, and miss it by that much. Hopefully it will make them hungrier this season.
Senior forward Danielle Lopez, senior goalkeeper Mariah Edwards and junior right winger Baylee Lindsley return and look to lead the team this year. Some new youth may make an immediate impact as well.
We got a strong core group. Were not real deep, but we got a solid 13-14 rotation of what will probably be the varsity, Sitton said.
Lindsley is ready to embrace the role of leader.
You have to push more, harder and bring everyone together. You make sure everyone is pushing as a team, She said. We need to go in focused and winning, and be more up than going down. Rather than a rollercoaster.
Practices started on Monday and the team is primarily conditioning right now. Sitton says the team will condition hard for the first two weeks of the season, which is something different he is trying out this year.
Were going to hit conditioning hard. Maybe harder than we have in seasons past, said Sitton. We do have a level of youth to the program we have to compensate for. We want to be physically and mentally stronger than our opponents with the league we play in. Its a tough league.
The 5A/4A Southwestern League consists of Montrose, Durango, Fruita Monument, Grand Junction and Grand Junction Central. All of which have a larger enrollment than M-CHS.
The Lady Panthers will host a six-team scrimmage on Saturday at Parque de Vida beginning at 9 a.m. Durango, Bayfield, Telluride, Ridgway and Pagosa Springs will be at the scrimmage. All five teams M-CHS will play in the regular-season. M-CHS feels that facing these squads this early is a major advantage.
It gives us a good sense of where were at early in the season of what some of things we need to kind of work on, Sitton said. We can work on some formations we can throw at different teams. Well assess some of our younger players of where theyll be able to fill in. Whether its a solid JV squad or whether theyll be able to put some minutes in on the varsity. Well start making that determination right after this first weekend.
Lindsley agrees that the pre-season scrimmage is good for the team.
I think its cool because you know what youre going to face during the season. You can be more prepared, Lindsley said about the scrimmage.
The regular-season starts on Friday, March 11, at home against Telluride at Johnson Field at 2 p.m. The Lady Panthers will play each conference team on a home-and-home basis. M-CHS will host Palisade in another nonconference match on April 25, which concludes a four-game home stand.
We lose one nonconference game, you can almost hang it up, Sitton said. Those games are that important. Theres no, Well its just Telluride. Its just Bayfield. We cant go in with that kind of mentality at all. We just dont have that luxury. These teams are well coached.
Sitton says its vital to do well in the nonleague schedule to be ready for conference play, and to get to the post-season.
When you hit Montrose, Junction, Central, Fruita, Durango, weve got to sweep at least two of those teams and hope to split with the others just to have a chance, Sitton said about making the playoffs.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at email@example.com