Zias ready for next step

Senior forward Karly Parkans tries to put a move on goalkeeper Stephanie Sanchez during Tuesday’s ENMU women’s soccer practice. Parkans scored six goals for last year’s squad. (Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

PORTALES — After tripling its win total last season, the third-year Eastern New Mexico University women’s soccer squad is looking for continued progress this season.

The Zias went from 3-12 in 2003 to a 9-9-2 mark last year (2-5-2 Lone Star Conference), narrowly missing a spot in the six-team LSC postseason tournament.

“It was exciting to make that much of an improvement,” sophomore midfielder Nicole Bregler of Alamogordo said. “But it was kind of bittersweet — we improved so much, but we didn’t reach our goal.”

Third-year coach Travis McCorkle has 12 returning players to build around. The Zias open this weekend with a trip to Durango, Colo., facing Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opponents Fort Lewis on Friday and Mesa State on Saturday.

“Our scrimmages have gone very well,” McCorkle said. “This time of year, things aren’t as crisp as you’d want, but I think we’re playing well. Fitness-wise, we’re better than we’ve ever been.”

McCorkle said the Zias wear the words “one goal” on the back of their practice jerseys, signifying how close they were in a number of games last season. Late-season ties with East Central and Southwestern Oklahoma helped cost them the final LSC tourney berth, which went to East Central.

The Zias, picked seventh in the 10-team league in preseason, will have to beat some of the teams in the middle of the pack to slip into a conference tournament berth, McCorkle said.

“If I’m nervous about something, it’s making sure we don’t rest on what we accomplished last year,” he said. “Last year I think we snuck up on teams; this year, we’re not going to sneak up on anybody.”

But the Zias are going in with more confidence, according to Bregler.

“Everybody is anxious to see how we match up,” she said. “We had some scrimmages against club teams and it was good to see what we could do.

“We’ve got more experience than we had last year, and I think that’ll work to our advantage.”

McCorkle said several Zias are currently nursing injuries. Junior defender Pam Campbell has missed some time due to kidney stones, but McCorkle said she plans to try to play through the pain.

Also, sophomore goalkeeper Stephanie Sanchez has been bothered by shoulder tightness and backup freshman midfielder Janelle Beyerl is nursing a sprained ankle. Both could be available this weekend, McCorkle said.

Sanchez, who shared time in goal with the departed Amanda Vanlandingham last season, is the scheduled starter, backed up by sophomore Amy Holtman. The defender positions should include Campbell, sophomores Marcela Garcia and Katherine Coulombe and freshman Megan Wonner of El Paso.

Campbell, Garcia and Coulombe saw regular duty in 2004. McCorkle said another freshman, Katie Irwin of Peru, N.Y., could start if Campbell can’t go this weekend.

The midfielders should be senior Valerie Noriega and junior Anna Funck, both returnees, and sophomore Jennifer Goodrum, a transfer from Division I Weber State.

The forwards are junior Megan Dozier, the team’s leading scorer each of the first two years, and either senior Karly Parkans or senior Jessica Rosas, both of whom were regulars last year.

The Zias have a favorable schedule — after going 5-1-1 at home last fall, 11 of the team’s 19 regular-season matches this year are scheduled for their home pitch.

“We hope that can work to our advantage,” Bregler said. “Looking back, it was exciting that we did so well at home last year.”