PORTALES — Third-year Eastern New Mexico University women’s soccer coach Todd Padgett isn’t particularly concerned his team was picked for last place in the six-team Lone Star Conference’s preseason poll.
He sees the Zias contending for a conference title, possibly as early as this year.
“We’re better,” he said. “We’re older and more experienced.”
The Zias (5-13, 4-10 LSC last year) have just three seniors on their roster, but the majority of the squad got plenty of playing time as freshmen and sophomores last season.
In addition, the Zias have improved their overall skill level and team speed, Padgett said.
“We’re much more talented offensively,” he said. “Last year, we had defenders playing forward because of injuries.
“And speed in the women’s college soccer game is huge.”
Among the top returning players are junior defenders Renee Romero and Amber Vega, senior midfielder Gerilyn Armijo, sophomore midfielder Carolyn Armijo (her sister), senior forward Brooke Serrano and junior midfielder Victoria Perez.
Sophomore Xan Ortiz returns in goal, with junior Fabienne Wilson challenging. Freshman midfielder Jenna Sievers of Clovis is coming along well and may eventually become a starter, Padgett said, while freshman defender Tori Hendrickson may also contribute.
The Zias have a beneficial schedule this year with 10 of their 18 matches at home, where they’ve played well over the years.
Still, it’ll be challenging. They open this weekend against Regis and Western State of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference on a neutral field in Santa Fe.
“It’s a tough schedule,” Padgett said. “We’re playing five teams that were ranked in the top 25 at some time last year.
“Our goal is to win a conference championship, and I firmly believe we have a group that can make a run at that.”
September: 6 — vs. Regis at Santa Fe, 4:30 p.m.; 8 — vs. Western State at Santa Fe, 1 p.m.; 10 — Central Washington, 2:30 p.m.; 13 — Colorado State-Pueblo, 4 p.m.; 15 — Colorado School of Mines, noon; 17 — at Adams State, 3 p.m.; 22 — St. Edward’s, noon; 27 — Texas A&M-Commerce, 4 p.m.-x; 29 — Texas Woman’s, 1 p.m.-x.
October: 3 — Lubbock Christian, 3:30 p.m.; 6 — West Texas A&M, 1 p.m.-x; 11 — at Midwestern State, 5 p.m.-x; 13 — at Angelo State, 1 p.m.-x; 18 — at West Texas A&M, 5 p.m.-x; 25 — Angelo State, 3 p.m.-x; 27 — Midwestern State, 1 p.m.-x.
November: 1 — at Texas Woman’s, 7 p.m.-x; 3 — at Texas A&M-Commerce, 11 a.m.-x.
All times Mountain. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference matches. Coach: Todd Padgett (3rd year).