Clovis senior Courtney Cole works on her headers during soccer practice Thursday at the Yucca Soccer Complex. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)
By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer
After a forgettable 2004 season, the Lady Wildcats are hoping a youth movement and quick legs will bring them a winning season and the second playoff berth in school history.
Clovis coach Larry Jones said his inexperienced team has a lot to learn coming off a four-win season.
“We are learning the basics all over again,” Jones said. “Most of the girls are juniors, but only about six of them have any varsity experience. We’re concentrating on basics; passing, dribbling, trapping.”
Although the team lacks experience, they already have something that the 2004 team lacked; speed.
“We have quite a bit of speed,” Jones said. “We should be a little bit faster than we have been. I’m hoping that’s going to help us be successful. If we have some breakdowns, we’ll be able to run some girls on the defensive end.”
Jones is counting on a sextet of juniors to lead the team this fall in forward Cali Rush, midfielders Jordan Garrett, Cassie Belford and Lora Esquivel, and defenders Brittney Jimenez and Patrice Dykes.
Esquivel, a cross country runner with speed to spare, said being a team leader is not easy.
“It’s kinda scary,” Esquivel said. “The little eighth- and ninth-graders look up to you and you want to set a good example for them. You want to tell them what to do, but you don’t want to be mean when you do it.”
According to Dykes, Clovis juniors are not used to losing.
“Most of us have grown up winning,” Dykes said. “It was hard losing all the time. We are going to motivate the team and help them out as much as we can.”
Jimenez said this year’s team is not content with just showing up.
“I think we are going to be a lot better than we have been the last few years,” Jimenez said. “We’ve been working a lot harder this summer. Usually we just kind of goof around, but this year we’ve been a lot more serious.”
Garrett said practice will be the key to a turnaround.
“This year we are looking a lot better,” Garrett said. “Last year we weren’t really organized with the program. We’ve been working hard every day, a lot harder than we did last year. Practice is where it’s going to pay off in the end.”
Contrary to her namesake, Rush thinks the key to victory is patience.
“A couple of games last year we were patient.” Rush said. “We didn’t rush. I think if we do that for every game this year we’ll do good.”
Rush missed the 2004 season with a knee injury.
Jones thinks that a healthy Rush will be a big scoring threat.
“She has good skills and I think that’s going to help us out a lot,” Jones said.
Belford embodies the fleetness that Jones is counting on.
“She ran track, so you know she has speed,” Jones said. “I’m hoping that speed will help us out a lot.”
At goalkeeper, would-be starter Kela Williams transferred to California, so the Wildcats look to Chastity Krueger, who has no varsity experience.
Jones said Krueger is building the mentality needed to play between the pipes.
“So far she is aggressive, which is good for a keeper,” Jones said. “A lot of it is knowing when to come out and when to stay back. I think she’s going to be pretty tough minded and that’s good for us.”
The 2005 season kicks off with the Lady Wildcat Soccer Invitational this weekend. Clovis plays against Moriarty at 3 p.m. Friday at the Yucca Sports Complex.