By Dave Wagner
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University’s venture into women’s soccer is on course, and then some.
Coach Travis McCorkle has signed 21 prospects, and said he may add one or two more players.
The Zias are the 10th women’s soccer program in the Lone Star Conference. They are scheduled to begin practice on Aug. 10 and will open the season with matches against Hobbs-based College of the Southwest on Aug. 30 and host Adams State the following day at Alamosa, Colo.
“I’m very pleased,” said McCorkle, an assistant at Angelo State the past two years. “I think we are ahead of the curve. I don’t know that we’re going to go out and be undefeated, but I feel good about where we are talent-wise.”
On paper, the Zias may have their work cut out — 13 of the 21 players are freshmen and seven of the remaining eight are sophomores.
Three players were members of ENMU’s club team — defender Amy Barbour, midfielder-forward Leah Berry and forward Khara Williams. All will be sophomores next year.
“I think it’s going to be good for the university, as far as more students are going to want to go there,” said Williams, who is from Albuquerque. “I’m excited about it.”
Williams said she came to Eastern with the understanding that the school was going to add the sport on an intercollegiate basis. ENMU is planning to add men’s soccer in 2004.
McCorkle said he is hesitant to go too far out on a limb. But he said one of his goals is to make the six-team LSC tournament in what he said has been rated the second-strongest Division II women’s soccer conference in the nation.
“My expectations are that we improve every day,” he said. “One of my big (points of) emphasis is that we have strong team chemistry. I also want to develop a strong sense of work ethic.”
Williams said she doesn’t think many people will expect the Zias to be that competitive, so they will have something to prove.
“I would love for us to just go out there and show them,” she said. “I think we’re grateful to have a coach like McCorkle; not only is he our coach, but he’s our friend.”
Two of the signees are coming from a junior college program — Cochise College in Arizona — in midfielder Nicole Johnson, the lone junior on the squad, and defender Pam Campbell.
“It’s going to be a young team, but I’m very pleased that we have eight non-freshmen,” said McCorkle, who may add more players. “The two junior college players are going to be counted on for some form of leadership, either directly or indirectly. They need to help set the standard as far as what’s expected on and off the field and in the classroom.”
The Zias are scheduled to play on a field now used as a golf driving range, just south of Greyhound Arena. McCorkle said he hopes work on the field can begin next month.
ENMU’s first seven matches are scheduled on the road. The Zias do not play at home until hosting College of the Southwest on Oct. 10.