Soccer team changes schedule approach

CNJ Staff Photo: Gabriel Monte Junior Jesus Loya works on his header technique during Wednesday’s Clovis High’s boys soccer practice at Yucca Middle School. The team begins its season Aug. 25 at Rio Rancho.

By Dave Wagner: CNJ Sports Writer

The Clovis High boys soccer team put together a solid season in 2006, posting the best record in coach Shaun Gill’s five years at the school.

As practice began this week, Gill said the Wildcats may have trouble matching last year’s 13-6-1 record, but he’s hopeful.

“We’re real young; we graduated 10 seniors last year,” Gill said. “We’re still learning each other, but from what I’ve seen the last couple of days, the effort and willingness to learn make up a lot for the inexperience.”

After being left on the outside looking in for two years in terms of getting an at-large berth to the Class 5A playoffs, Gill decided to try a new approach.

Clovis’ usual season-opening tournament has been scrapped. Instead, the Cats begin the season Aug. 25 at Rio Rancho before playing in a tournament at Alamogordo the next week.

The idea is to get more exposure to 5A programs around the state.

“Skill-wise, we’ve got some good players in key positions,” Gill said. “I’m excited; the guys are eager. We’re going to get there, especially if we keep working hard.”

Lady Cats rebuilding

The Lady Wildcats are also rebuilding, second-year coach Shane Leatherwood said.

Taking over a program last year that has been struggling for some time, Leatherwood is trying to change the overall mindset.

“I think we’re a better team this year,” he said. “We’re fairly young, but the seniors we do have are pretty important to us.”

The Lady Cats relied heavily on defense in posting a 5-11-2 mark a year ago, and Leatherwood doesn’t expect that to change.

“Up the middle we’re young but strong,” he said. “You’ve got to win to have a winning attitude, but I think we’re good in key spots this year.”

The girls have also abandoned their season-opening tournament. Instead, they are scheduled to open with invitational tournaments Aug. 24-25 at Artesia and Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at Roswell Goddard.