A new era of Lady Panthers soccer has begun.
Longtime Montezuma-Cortez High School assistant Nate Ross has taken the reigns of head man.
M-CHS has been closer than a missed goal off the crossbar to making the postseason the past two years, but the Lady Panthers came up oh so short each time. Ross and his regime of talent are determined to right the postseason ship, this season.
One of my biggest concerns is keeping things positive, Ross said. (Its) keeping team chemistry, playing well as a group, play well as a team. Theres no reason why we shouldnt be able to make the playoffs this year. But we have to take those baby steps to get ready for that.
Senior captain midfielder Baylee Lindsley would love nothing more than to end her career as a Lady Panther in the postseason.
Im hoping to go to playoffs. Its my last chance, said Lindsley, who scored four times last year. Its my senior year. Im just trying to do my best and trying to get everyone to do their best. Im going to work hard and try to get everyone else to step it up. Hopefully, well make it.
Fellow seniors Ellen Koppenhafer (mid, defender) and Kylee Sitton (defender) are expected to help lead the team. Junior returning leading scorer Allison Porter looks to be stronger. The forward had 10 goals in 2011. Junior Abby Engel will be a force in the midfield as well. Junior Tori Laymon will start at goalkeeper.
Its a new team. I feel if we all believe we can do it, well be good, Lindsley said. We have a lot of good freshmen that came in this year. Theyre very athletic. We have some pretty quick ones. I think well do good.
One thing often preached in sports is that defense wins. The Lady Panthers will greatly emphasize attacking defensively.
Im big on coaching good defense, Ross said. Its individual defense as well as team defense. You cant win in any sport unless you have good defensive strategy. Thats going to be a big focus for us. I think you should always start with the defense part of it. Your offense will come out of your defense.
Ross has been an assistant at M-CHS the past seven seasons with both the boys and girls teams. He feels his familiarity within the program will keep consistent success.
Ive coached every one of these girls since they were freshmen, Ross said. Im pretty knowledgeable about every one of their strengths or their weaknesses. Ive been with the program long enough to keep that consistency going with these girls. They know my expectations. A lot of the new girls will learn my expectations.
Before that, Ross spent four years as the head boys and girls soccer coach at Pueblo County High School. Ross also played soccer four years collegiately at CSU-Pueblo.
The season kicks off Saturday at Johnson Memorial Field against 3A Telluride at 11 a.m. M-CHS will tentatively be off for almost two weeks when it hosts 5A/4A Southwestern League foe Montrose on March 23. The early season matchup with the Indians will have playoff implications.
Montrose is our make-or-break game every season, said Ross about the fellow 4A school. I think its going to work in our advantage for us to have that time to prepare for that game.
The Lady Panthers will host league opponent Grand Junction Central the next day, before embarking on a six-game road trip from March 30 to April 13. M-CHS will conclude its home schedule with a three-game home stand April 17-21, against Durango, Fruita Monument and Grand Junction. The regular season ends on the road at Central, Montrose and Durango (April 27-May 3).
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at firstname.lastname@example.org.