BHS booters rely on juniors to play the role of seniors
When a team graduates a number of players, the coach and other players usually look to the new class of seniors for leaders. But with the Belen High School girls soccer team, that isn’t the case because the Lady Eagles don’t have any seniors. The Lady Eagles graduated six seniors off of last year’s team, which was the District 3-4A runner-up, and are looking to a solid group of juniors to step into those boots.
“We graduated a big chunk last year,” head coach Nettie Salas said. “These juniors are going to have to take a load on them, but they can handle it because a lot of them are going into their third varsity season.”
Included in this year’s tough junior class is all-district first team and all-state honorable mention recipient, goalkeeper, Stephanie Sanchez. Sanchez has been an example for the past three years and will be even more of a leader this year, according to Salas.
“(Sanchez) is a great player, and she is even more vocal this year,” Salas said.
Sanchez will need to be a more vocal leader for the Lady Eagles this year, as the girls will be rebuilding a defense that was hit hard by graduation. The Lady Eagles lost four defenders to graduation.
“(Sanchez) will have to help back there on the defense,” Salas said. “We’re rebuilding a defense this year, and Stephanie will have to be vocal to help the defenders.”
The only junior returning to the team on defense is Monica Hicks. A young defense doesn’t only add stress to the keeper’s job; it also puts added pressure on the midfield.
“Our midfielders are going to have to make sure they play on both sides of the field,” Salas said.
Filling in the midfield will be juniors Brandi Dearing and Crystal Cordova and youngsters Tara Landovazo, Aubre Salas and Janelle Beyerl. All five are returning from last year’s squad.
The strength of the Lady Eagle team is obviously in the attacking-third of the field, where the team is returning Jocelyn Chavez and sharpshooter Melissa Gurule. Gurule found the back of the net 33 times last year, leading all Class 4A scorers. In her first two seasons, Gurule has scored 55 goals. Chavez, who will be running opposite Gurule, is a tremendous threat waiting to happen.
“Jocelyn really just has to realize how good she is and how good she can be, then no one can stop her,” Salas said.
The Lady Eagles finished second in 3-4A last season behind Albuquerque Academy. Now that Academy is out of the picture, Belen is the favorite in the district.
“I never like to move a powerhouse out of the district; if there is a team like Academy in your district, it elevates everyone’s game,” Salas said.
With the departure of Academy, District 3-4A will be adding a wildcard into the group in the form of Santa Theresa from the southern part of the state.
“I really don’t know what to expect from Santa Theresa,” Salas said. “We didn’t blow anyone out last year, except Deming. This year should be very competitive. Oñate should have a very talented squad, as will Silver.
“I don’t like to set high goals at the beginning of the season, but I expect us to make the post-season ad improve on last year’s success.”
With Academy out of the way, the door is wide open for the Lady Eagles. The only question is whether the junior class can step up and give the team the leadership they need.
“We know what it takes to get to the post season,” Salas said. “We just have to make sure that we do what we need to.”
The Lady Eagles season will get under way on Friday when they travel south to the Socorro Cup. The team will play their first home game of the season on the Aug. 27, against West Mesa High School.