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Girls soccer preview: Culture change key to turnaround

The girls soccer season gets started this week. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Builders Exchange)

The culture of program can be changed as has been seen many times over by new coaches coming in and demanding a new way to play, act and represent.

Most of the girls soccer programs in the Mesa area have struggled in the standings over the years.

Only two teams – Desert Ridge and Mountain – had winning seasons last year and only Red Mountain and Desert Ridge have a winning record over the last 10 seasons based on MaxPreps records.

It doesn’t always mean there is a negative culture, but breaking a string of losing seasons can only be changed by, well, winning.

Skyline hopes that culture change and winning ways comes in the form of new coach Alison Mabery, who takes over the program after guiding Fountain Hills to four straight state title matches in 3A/Division III.

“I am very optimistic with this year’s squad,” she said. “They went
.500 last season (6-8 actually) and I am expecting a more productive outcome this year.”

It starts with addressing the way the team practices and the expectation of commitment to the team.

“The girls will be more polished, mentally tough, and disciplined,” Mabery said. “The girls have a real drive to be the best they can be, in every aspect of the game.”

Desert Ridge should be good again after winning 11 matches last year with a young roster.

Mountain View and Red Mountain tied for the East Valley Region title last year, and should be at the top again this season.

The Toros made the playoffs and come up short in the first round. A lot of players return with some additional young talent moving into prominent roles.

“We hope to integrate our new players into the lineup and get them on the same page,” Mountain View coach Jen Larsen said. “We are focusing on technical skills in the morning and tactical skills in the afternoon and will be ready to go on Nov 28th against Mtn. Pointe.”

Here is a look at the all the teams heading into the season:


Desert Ridge

Coach: Robert LaPlante, eighth season

Last year’s record: 11-8-3

Record last 10 years: 116-73-5

Top players: Jessica Olander, Jr., F, Abby Frey, Soph., MF, Taylor Goodyear, Sr., D, Sage McDaniel, Soph., MF.

Tournaments: Hopp/Solis Cactus Cup (Nov. 30-Dec. 1); Coyote Classic (Dec. 5-6, 8) at Williams Field.

Comments/notes:  Olander had a monster sophomore year as she scored 23 goals and had 13 assists in 21 games to earn All-Central Region first-team honors. … Desert Ridge has had five straight double-digits win seasons. … The Jaguars went 1-4 in Central Region action and were outscored 13-4. … Frey (5 goals, 5 assists) and McDaniel (4 goals, 6 assists) had 15 and 14 points, respectively, in their freshmen seasons. … The Jaguars first freedom game is Tuesday as they host Mesquite.



Coach: Haley Lurrtsema, second year

Last year’s record: 4-14-1

Record last 10 years: 56-109-5

Top players: McKenna Campbell, Soph., MF, Erin Peters, Sr., D/MF, Jordan Geramanis, Sr., MF, Socorro de Rosas, Jr., MF, Laeilani Etheridge, Soph., F, Stephany Rivero, Sr., D.

Tournaments: Hopp/Solis Cactus Cup (Nov. 30-Dec. 2) at Desert Ridge; Chandler Prep Invite (Dec. 15-16) at Red Mountain Complex.

Comments/notes: Campbell was a first-team All-East Valley Region pick at forward, while Peters and Geramanis were second-team picks. … The Mustangs are looking to break a streak of at least five straight seasons with 10 loses or more. … The four wins last season was a jump from one win the season before. … Opens the season at Gilbert on Wednesday.



Coach: Brigette Tarwater, third season

Last year’s record: 1-16-2

Record last 10 years: 26-106-7

Top players: Sara Vendrick, Sr., F, Jessica Davila, Jr., F, Amanda Gard, Sr., MF, Allie Hancock, Sr., D.

Tournaments:  Coyote Classic (Dec. 2, 4, 7) at Williams Field; Chandler Prep Invite (Dec. 15-16) at Red Mountain Complex.

Comments/notes: Vendrick was a second-team All-East Valley Region selection, while Davila, Gard and Hancock received honorable mention honors. …  The Jackrabbits scored four goals all last season. … During the MaxPreps era (beginning 2006-07), the most wins Mesa has had in a season is six back in 2012-13. … Open at home versus Sandra Day O’Connor on Tuesday.


Mountain View

Coach: Jen Larsen, second year

Last year’s record: 11-7-1

Record last 10 years: 68-75-6

Top players: Hope Hilliard, Jr., McKinley Barney, Soph., Grace Morse, Sr., D/F.

Tournaments: Coyote Classic (Dec. 2) at Campo Verde; Arizona Soccer Showcase (Dec. 27-31) at Reach 11.

Comment/notes: Morse led the team with eight goals, while junior Sarah Marske had six goals and nine assists. … Three other underclassmen had at least four goals including All-Region first-team pick Kendall Lossner …  The Toros hope to parlay last season’s playoff berth into a starting point this year. “We are motivated to improve and get back to the playoffs,” Larsen said. “We have never made it past the first round in state and will strive for that this season.” … The Toros tied Red Mountain at 5-1 in region action, splitting pair of matches. … Mountain View hosts Mountain Pointe to start the year on Tuesday.


Red Mountain

Coach: Vincent Gallegos, fifth season

Last year’s record: 8-10-1

Record last 10 years: 85-67-13

Top players: Sara Svoboda, Sr., F, Macy Horn, Jr., MF, Julianne Dominguez, Sr., MF, Sophia Gabrick, Jr., D, Brittani Rusnak, Sr., D.

Tournaments: Coyotes Classic (Dec. 6-8) at Williams Field; Mustang Classic (Dec. 26-29) at Red Mountain Complex.

Comments/notes: Dominguez shared Co-Player of the Year for the East Valley Region with graduated teammate Aubree Incardone last year. … Gallegos was the coach of the year for the region. … Red Mountain outscored region opponents 34-5 last year in going 5-1. … Horn and Dominquez each had seven goals last season to rank second on the team. … The Mountain Lions have a late start to the year as they don’t play until Dec. 6 in the Coyote Classic.



Coach: Alison Mabery, first season

Last year’s record: 6-8-2

Record last 10 years: 45-82-7

Top players: India Henswood, Sr., F; Vanessa Chavez Alvarado, Sr., D; MacKenzie Houston, Sr., Chloe Kaufman, Jr., Skylar Klemmer, Jr.

Tournament: Independence Winter Invitational (Dec. 27-30) at Independence.

Comments/notes: Mabery comes to Skyline after five successful seasons at Fountain Hills, guiding the programs to four straight state tiles appearances, winning three times. … The Coyotes begin the season at home Monday against La Joya. Kaufman was a second-team all-region pick and Henswood was as honorable mention selection. … Mabery has brought a new coaching philosophy to the program that the players have had to digest.  “The team is quick to pick up new concepts and are becoming more
and more aggressive on the field,” Mabery said. “We have some really good finishers up top and
will be looking for the rest of the to put pressure on the ball all over the field.”



Coach: Stephanie Poppert, second season

Last year’s record: 4-12

Record last 10 years: 19-100-5

Top players: Hanna Morgan, Sr., MF; Gisselle Alpapizco, Sr., D; Michelle Monroy, Sr., D; Keyla Vargas, Jr., D; Sabrinna Lara, Jr., G.

Tournaments: Coyote Classic (Dec. 5-8) at Williams Field.

Comments/notes: Westwood had a three-game winning streak last season, which was more than or equal to more than nine of the last 11 season totals for wins. … Morgan was a first-team All-East Valley Region pick, while Alpapizco and Lara were second-team picks. … The four wins last season stopped a five-year streak of one-win seasons. … The Warriors are on the road to the season as they travel to Millennium on Tuesday.

– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to jskoda@mynewsmesa.com.

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