By Derek Major
The Portales High School soccer teams had to deal with a lot of adversity last year, but both squads come into this season with more experience and high expectations.
Boys to feature new formation
Boys coach Nathan Dodge spent last year teaching his players; the Rams had just one senior, and started three freshmen.
This year, they have experience across the board with 10 seniors and four juniors, which couldn’t make Dodge happier.
“They know what’s expected of them,” Dodge said. “Last year we had to do a lot of teaching, but this year we’re just reminding them of things and we’re letting them play.”
The Rams, who finished 8-11 last season, are in a new district and are going to be adding a new formation to their attack. Last year they ran a 4-4-2 formation exclusively, but this season they’ll add the 3-5-2 formation.
“The 4-4-2 is more of a defensive formation and the 3-5-2 is more of an attacking formation,” Dodge said. “The guys are excited about it and we plan to use the 3-5-2 early in games to be aggressive and hopefully get a lead, then if we can get a lead we’ll use the 4-4-2 to play back and try to get the win.”
The Rams have an experienced group on the field, including keeper Lane Nicholes, who was all-district honorable mention last season. Jose Barron scored 20 goals last season and will be looking to build on that.
“Our ultimate goal is to win the district, and with the group we have I think we can,” Dodge said. “That’s what we want to do this year. We talk about it every day and if we play hard and work, we can reach that goal.”
Lady Rams have more endurance
Portales’ girls made the playoffs last year under first-year coach Sarah Vasquez, losing in the first round of the then-Class 3A state playoffs.
“We have a great defensive line and we plan on working from the back up, which will give us a lot of room to shift on defense and give us a chance to win a lot of balls,” Vasquez said. “Then we’ll be able to move the ball forward and attack.”
The Lady Rams finished last season 7-13, but with a new focus on endurance, Vasquez believes her team will improve.
Kailee Ramirez, Jimena Lavalle, Hannah Evans and Alejandra Gonzalez are all returning players from last season that Vasquez will be counting on to lead the team and set the tone of the game early.
“Last year was my first year so it was a building block, and we lost a lot of close games that we weren’t in shape to finish,” Vasquez said. “We’ve been working on our fitness all spring and now that the season is here we can just focus on soccer and not the other stuff and that will be a big difference.”
Vasquez wants soccer success, but she also has bigger goals for her players — she wants everyone to graduate with a 3.0 average or better.
She wants her players, “to be ready to go out into the real world when they leave our program.”