By Kevin Wilson
PORTALES — The Zia soccer team is looking to earn respect in the Lone Star Conference this year, one practice and one song at a time.
Members of the inaugural Eastern New Mexico University women’s soccer team are preparing for a 15-game regular season, starting Aug. 30 against College of the Southwest at Alamosa, Colo.
The team is comprised of members of the now-defunct ENMU soccer club, plus freshmen and transfers brought in by coach Travis McCorkle.
The blueprint for building a new soccer program, McCorkle said, starts with finding a balance between skill and team chemistry.
“I think you try to find the best players you can,” said McCorkle, who will also coach the men’s soccer team when it opens play in 2004. “The prototype player you look for are girls that create a good atmosphere. The atmosphere you create is the one you recruit future players from.”
Some of McCorkle’s players were an easy sell, as they were soccer club members pushing to create a team that would compete with the rest of the Lone Star Conference.
Junior Amy Barbour was part of that movement, as she was a two-year member of the club.
“It’s very gratifying knowing that it counts now because we’ve been pushing for it,” Barbour said. “It’s nice to know we’re getting respect for what we’re doing.”
Whether or not the Zias can get respect from the rest of the Lone Star Conference is a toss-up right now. McCorkle, previously an assistant at Angelo State, is no rookie to the LSC.
His players are, however, and he’s looking to make that a rallying point.
“I’ll be looking to use my experience in the Lone Star Conference to help us out,” McCorkle said. “We know more about the other teams and the other teams don’t know much about us, so we’ll try to use that to our advantage.”
The Zias open LSC play Oct. 3 at Texas Woman’s. They will be at home for a four-game homestand starting Oct. 10.
Recruiting is typically tough for a coach starting a new program, but some of the Zias said that McCorkle’s enthusiasm during the spring recruiting period was convincing enough.
“I’ve never been part of a new program before,” said Angelina Green, a Las Cruces native who transferred to ENMU from Cochise College, Ariz. “And I think it would be exciting to help build and grow a new program.”
McCorkle expects the team to go through some early struggles, as opponents with experience will simply have a greater familiarity among teammates. To alleviate as many of those struggles as possible, McCorkle said the team is working on ice-breakers and team activities.
“I think they’ve jelled pretty quick,” McCorkle said. “I’m not aware of any attitude problems, so thing are good in that aspect.”
Tuesday’s practice concluded with the girls singing McCorkle a song they wrote about the team, set to the tune of “American Pie.”