Defense key for CMU women’s soccer team
As Jason Clare continues to build his women’s soccer program at Colorado Mesa, it’s less time teaching and more time spent on raising expectations.
“It’s nice when you see something that’s happening or in pregame talking about tactics and it’s only maybe one, ‘Hey, we need to do this,’ ‘’ Clare said. “Now it’s just a look, especially with (senior defender Taylor Bruno), it’s just a look that she knows what I’m thinking. That’s nice and unique. I’m not as stressed and I’m not adding to their stress or flustering them.”
Even the young players are catching on quickly as the Mavericks (2-2-1) enter RMAC play this weekend after beating Angelo State 1-0 on Wednesday in Gunnison. Sunday, Colorado Mesa finally gets a home match, battling Westminster College in the conference opener.
Everything starts on defense for the Mavericks.
“Our goal is hey, let’s be sound in the back, nothing gets through,” Bruno said. “If something gets through, make sure we get it out (before it becomes a shot). ... Our defense is very sound and we’re very proud of our defense. Once we get better in the back going forward, we get better up top and start scoring goals.”
Clare was especially happy to see how the youngsters are taking to the system. He started three freshmen on the back line last week and said, “They’ve taken to it like a duck to water. The other day we had three freshmen start in the back and they looked like they’ve been playing for years.”
After opening the season with a scoreless tie and a 2-1 loss, the Mavericks gave up a goal they’re still steaming about in a 1-0 loss to Sonoma State.
“We were very sad, I’d guess you’d say, when we gave up that goal against Sonoma because we knew we had it,” Bruno said. “It’s hard to see that happen. We see we can (win), we take it to teams that are supposedly better than us in the rankings, we take it to them all the time. Jason and I have seen the hard times when it was 1-0 or 2-1 and this year we can score goals. We can see the philosophy is working.”
A 2-0 victory over Humboldt State last week had the Mavericks smiling after the final horn.
“It was nice to finally see it go in the back of the net,” Clare said.
Metro State and CU-Colorado Springs have long been a nemesis for the Mavericks, so of course, CMU opens conference play this week on the road — against Metro State and UCCS.
“Going up against two top teams, both teams that beat us in RMAC play the last two years, it’s two big games to start off and set the tone,” sophomore defender James McGhee said. “We didn’t get the results we wanted in region play, but we know if we come out on top in the RMAC, that’s where we’re going to want to be come NCAA tournament time.”
The Mavericks (1-1-2) have surprisingly had trouble finishing goals consistently, other than in their 5-1 nonconference victory over Fort Lewis.
CMU coach Todd Padgett said he’s fine with the Mavs’ 2-1 loss to No. 7 St. Edward’s, but the 1-1 tie against St. Mary’s should have had a different outcome.
“Some issues we didn’t think would be an issue this year in terms of finishing and taking our chances unfortunately have been issues the last couple of weekends,” Padgett said. “I think the team is still capable of scoring quite a few goals, but we got better over the weekend, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”
Dave Fleming pulled MacKenzie Edwards aside last weekend and heaped some high praise on his sophomore outside hitter.
“I sat her down and told her I don’t remember an eight-game stretch that we’ve had an outside hitter play that consistently over that period of time,” Fleming said. “She’s averaging four kills per game; she’s playing really, really well.”
With everyone knowing the Mavericks (6-2) love to run a middle attack, it’s the pin hitters who are starting to draw some attention, because the middles draw so much attention.
“I think we have really good outsides this year, but our middles are doing well,” Edwards said. “I think we’ll still be middle-driven and then get (chances outside).”
That’s what happened last weekend in the Tarleton State tourney. Middles Hattie Gianinetti (10 kills) and Alyssa Chutka (9) were efficient against Tarleton, and teams took note.
“One thing we noticed in Texas, a lot of other teams came to watch the Tarleton match and our middles were very successful,” CMU coach Dave Fleming said. “The next day they were overloading on our middles; that last match against (Texas A&M) Commerce, Zie hit over .300 and Allison Smith over .400 because other teams were starting to overload on our middles. That’s exactly why we do it, so we’ll always have options.”
Entering conference play — at Western State today and at home Saturday night against Westminster — the Mavericks have won six straight and are getting votes in the national poll. After starting out 0-2, something changed. No one knows exactly what it was, but they aren’t complaining.
“There was a definite change in the team dynamic,” Edwards said. “I think we figured out a way to work together.”