Vail Christian soccer looks for new firsts
EDWARDS ” One set of firsts came and went with Vail Christian girls soccer’s maiden voyage into the sport last season.
Now a full member of the 3A Slope after playing as an independent, the Saints are looking at another first ” making state.
Vail Christian went 7-6-1 playing most of the teams in the Slope, return a host of players from that cast, and more importantly, experience.
“My biggest unknown last year was ‘What was the competition like?’ This year, I’m excited that we’re in our own league,” Vail Christian coach Barbara Wilson said. “I know how Aspen and Basalt play now. We also beat Grand Valley twice last year, Just knowing the conditioning we need is good. I know what to expect.”
Heading the crew are nine seniors who played last season. For those wondering if soccer would catch on down at Vail Christian, that’s three-quarters of the female Class of 2009.
“I think it helps a lot because now we know how our coach is going to prepare us,” senior Taya Westerberg said. “I think this year is going to be a good year. We’ve got most of our senior class out. It should be fun because we have a super athletic class.”
‘Pass like you mean it’
Last year was a year for all involved to get to know each other ” Wilson was a new coach and the players hadn’t played varsity teams in the region. This year, coach and players alike are already ahead of last year’s progression, particularly when it comes to Wilson’s oft-repeated theme for the season.
“‘Pass like you mean it’ is my new mantra,” the coach said. “Don’t just give a little touch. When you pass it, it needs to got to where you want. Every pass is a good pass.”
The idea is to build out from goalie Dakota Francis. The Saints, playing a 4-3-3, have height, athleticism and experience in center backs Allie Parker and Sammy Francis. Alexis Ellsworth along with a combination of Yahaira Ruiz and Micaela McGuckin should make the Saints’ defense stout.
In the middle, the Bowles tradition continues. With Kelly Bowles’ graduation last May, Brooke Bowles anchors the midfield. McKenzie O’Brien and Maty Peckham will be on Bowles’ flanks.
Up front, the Saints struggled last year a bit, but that could well change. Tara Dalbow, Westerberg, and Elizabeth Shearon and/or Allison Vossler are all seniors.
“I think this year we can do it,” Westerberg said. “We’ve found where Coach wants us. I think this year we’ll be able to put it in the net.”
Other members of the team include Makyla Conklin, Jocelyn Garcia, Karen Rascon, Sandra Almanza, Karen Parra, Ciara Rulon and Tessa Vlaar.
Vail Christian was quite successful for a first-year program in 2008 with a winning record. The Saints played everyone in their new league except for Rangely and Roaring Fork.
As would be expected, perennial powers Basalt ” owners of 11-straight Slope crowns ” and Aspen had their way with Vail Christian. On the other hand, the Saints were competitive with middle-of the-pack teams like Vail Mountain and Coal Ridge and took care of Grand Valley twice.
“It’s always good to have your Aspen and Basalt because it’s good to have something to strive for,” Wilson said.
But the Saints don’t want just to be looking up at the Skiers and Longhorns. With Vail Christian and Grand Valley joining the circuit, the Slope now has four berths in the state tournament, and the Saints want one of them.
The quest for another first begins March 7 with a game tentatively scheduled at Coal Ridge. The Saints open at home against Grand Valley.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.