After competing in the Class 4A/5A Southwestern League since 2010, M-CHS was reclassified so the Lady Panthers will now compete in the Class 3A Intermountain League.
The Panthers lost five seniors from last year’s squad to graduation, but head coach Nate Ross and assistant Sam Edgerton have seniors Rylee Lindsley, Britaney Hampton, Maddy Mahaffey and Cassidy Leonard returning, and Dolores seniors Madi Archuleta and Josie Bernholtz are also joining the fold.
“That’s a good core group of seniors right there that have good leadership and have good experience with me and how I operate,” Ross said. “And that’s important for me, because the younger girls coming back or new freshman coming in, that senior group is really looked up to and they’re going to lead by example.”
Ross noted his strong senior core, as well as a budding group of younger players, and said that he believes the team will be strong all around.
“I think as a collective unit we’re going to be able to win games and not have one or two goal scorers having to shoulder the load for us,” he explained. “I think that’s what I’m excited about this season, is a lot of girls are going to have a lot of opportunities to step up and have success right away.”
Ross spoke of his team’s style of play and said he expects them to be quicker and a bit less defensive. But defense is still a factor. He said he’s got multiple players working out as goalkeepers, but that he expects Dolores sophomore Elena Cosner to be a key player between the posts.
“She’s definitely a girl that can step into the goal and do well for us,” he said. “That’s going to be a key position for us, because any goalkeeper that steps into that goal is going to have to step in and make saves. And making those saves is what’s going to hold down that whole idea that defense wins games.”
The Lady Panthers open the 2017 season at Ignacio on Friday, March 17 before returning to Cortez for their home opener against Telluride on Tuesday, March 28. And after dropping to Class 3A, Ross hopes the change in competition is noted on the field and in the win column.
“We should have a ton of success this year dropping down to 3A,” he said. “Not much is going to change as far as how I prepare my team, but I think other people are going to see the potential that these girls have had over the years really start to shine.”