By Dave Wagner, Freedom New Mexico
For the first time since the program’s inception in 2003, the Eastern New Mexico University women’s soccer team has a new head coach.
Ray Nause replaces Travis McCorkle, who took the job at Lone Star Conference rival Angelo State earlier this summer. With it, say the players, come some changes in style.
“I have a pretty positive attitude about it,” senior forward Hillary Gintowt said. “Something came up for Travis, and it was something he needed to do.
“We’ve heard good things about Ray, and so far it’s good. He’s different (from McCorkle), but the change is good.”
Junior midfielder Kim Anaya, who is a co-captain with Gintowt, said the transition has been smooth.
“I think Ray knows the game very well, knows the little things very well,” she said. “I think we have a lot of potential. We have some good freshmen who will definitely help us, I think.”
The Zias (9-9, 3-7 LSC last year) got off to a fast start, keyed by a school-record seven-match winning streak. Then they struggled down the stretch and fell short in their bid to make the six-team conference tournament.
“Last year we won seven in a row, and then it kind of went downhill,” said Gintowt, who is from Gallup. “We’re just looking forward to doing better this year.”
The Zias open the season on Thursday against Fort Lewis with the first of three matches in four days at Billings, Mont. They face Dixie on Saturday and host Montana State-Billings on Sunday.
Nause, a native of Ohio, said he’s been happy with the early-season workouts.
“What’s I’m super-pleased about is they’ve worked hard,” he said. “We’ve set our expectations high.
“Any time you have a coaching change, some things will be done similarly and some things are different. They’ve really kept an open mind to that.”
Nause said that while the Zias are a relatively young team — Gintowt is the only senior — they have a number of experienced players as well.
“It’s a mix,” he said of the relative youth of the team. “It’s a little deceptive in some ways because we have a good core (of players who) have played before.”
Every year is different, according to Anaya.
“It’s so hard to say (what will happen) from year to year,” said Anaya, an Eldorado graduate. “The main thing is to keep focus.”
Gintowt has moved a midfield position to forward to team with junior Samantha Lawrence.
“She has the ability to adapt to a new role,” Nause said of Gintowt. “She’s an experienced player.”
In midfield with Anaya will be juniors Michelle Sumner and Leslie Weber. Sophomores Christie Nylaan and Justine Tydings are slated to play on defense, in front of a new goalkeeper with four-year starter Stephanie Sanchez moving on.
Sophomore Jamie Silva, a backup last year, is competing for the position with freshmen Sierra Cardenas and Candice Guthrie.
“Obviously, we don’t have someone who’s been tested in the fire of the Division II level,” Nause said. “We’re looking forward to whoever steps up and takes the reins.”