Clovis High senior Brittni Jimenez, left, and freshman Cynthia Madrid get some extra work in after practice on Wednesday at Yucca Soccer Complex. The Lady Wildcats host a six-team invitational this weekend. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Greg Price: CNJ correspondent
Changing a losing atmosphere can be one of the hardest tasks a coach can undertake.
New Clovis girls soccer coach Shane Leatherwood said breaking the program’s streak of losing seasons has motivated the 2006 Lady Wildcats.
“We’re so far behind we need everyone to win,” Leatherwood said. “I hope everyone will exceed expectations.”
Even the players acknowledged a change of attitude in the locker room as they feel the team has turned a corner.
“I think this team works a whole lot harder,” senior sweeper Cassie Belford said. “We’re approaching the game differently.”
Leatherwood said the turnaround from a 3-15 season in 2005 starts on defense, which was the focus of off-season and preseason workouts.
He also said the Lady Cats must focus on better communication and stronger fundamentals.
Senior midfielder Jordan Garrett and senior forward Calie Rush join Belford as cornerstones of the team. Leatherwood said.
“We’ve got a lot more motivation and a lot more heart,” Garrett said.
Garrett said the team’s lack of effort clearly showed on the field last season, but she believes the Lady Cats have turned their game around for the good.
Leatherwood believes his team will be much improved on defense.
“This year, we’re a lot faster,” Belford said. “We’re gonna make runs, and work the ball between each other.”
Clovis will look for Garrett to move the ball up to Rush for scoring opportunities, and for Belford to keep the ball in play for the offense to begin its sets.
“I’m sort of like the quarterback,” Garrett said. “I put passes where they need to be.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lady Cats will call on junior defenders Stephanie O’Neal and Erica Lewis to break up their opponents’ attacks. O’Neal has moved up from the junior varsity.
At Yucca Soccer Complex
Pool A — Clovis, Clovis JV, Artesia.
Pool B — Roswell High, Santa Fe St. Michael’s, Aztec.
Noon — Clovis vs. Clovis JV
2 p.m. —St. Michael’s vs. Aztec
4 p.m. — Clovis vs. Artesia
6 p.m. — Roswell High vs. Aztec
8 a.m. — Artesia vs. Clovis JV
10 a.m. — St. Michael’s vs. Roswell High
1 p.m. — Consolation game (3rd in each pool)
3 p.m. — Third-place game (2nd in each pool)
5 p.m. — Championship (1st in each pool)