Mavs moving forward: Mesa soccer teams seeing growth on field
The improvement in practice is noticeable. Now the Mesa State College soccer teams are working to make sure the improvement can be seen when it counts.
“It’s a drastic difference from last year’s squad,” women’s coach Erin Sharpe said. “It’s pretty exciting. We’ve got a lot of speed, a lot of depth, a very high soccer IQ. We needed to boost that big-time.”
Men’s coach Josh Pittman echoed Sharpe’s thoughts.
“We see the difference. We’re moving the ball around pretty well, we’re pretty quick with the experience,” he said. “It helps, because they’ve done this for a few years. We also have a good group of recruits, very smart, skillful players, very athletic. It makes the level of competition that much greater.”
Both teams are picked to finish fifth, in the middle of the pack, in the RMAC in the preseason coaches polls. Only one player, women’s senior forward Dany Ramirez, made the preseason all-conference team.
“Most of us are basing it off last year’s results and that’s where we finished,” Sharpe said. “It’s a little added motivation, for sure. It’s not acceptable, based on our goals.”
It’s a move up for the men’s team, which won only two games last season after being down to 18 players after eight games because of injuries and other circumstances.
“Our expectations last year were very high,” Pittman said. “We lost five players after the first game and they were all key players. We were in a world of hurt.
“We set our goals (this season) really simple: To try to get better every practice and every game, and play to our potential.
“If we can meet those goals, I think we’ll be in a very good position in the conference.”
The men scrimmaged Laramie Community College on Friday night, and today both teams scrimmage Mesa (Ariz.) Community College, the men at 4 p.m. and the women at 7 p.m., both at Walker Field.
“We’re going to go with two squads, one in the first half and one in the second half,” Sharpe said. “It won’t be the starting squad, we’re going to mix them together. The thing about this squad is, any given day we could have various people starting.
“We have that kind of depth. Any given day we’re going to play different formations as well. Not a ton of different formations, but based on personnel, we have some options.”
The men, too, have options — and a true senior class. Eight seniors are on the roster, twice as many as the previous three seasons combined.
Pittman said the Mavs are three deep in every position, creating plenty of competition in practice.
“We haven’t done too much where we were kicking each other,” he said. “Last year we kicked each other so much (in practice scrimmages), it was a problem. This year we realized that, so we scaled things back, we’ve only played a little bit. We’re using this scrimmage as an important scrimmage, to get out and feel their legs, get used to each other and get the feel of playing.
“We’ll turn the lights on and see what it’s like in a couple of weeks.”