Grit and goals
Mesa women's soccer team hopes never-give-up attitude continues this season
Last season’s Colorado Mesa women’s soccer team was a gritty bunch that believed it was never out of a game.
Coach Jason Clare believes this year’s team is just as gritty, and is developing that same belief.
“I think we showed our resilience last year and the character we had on the team; we never gave up,” Clare said. “Other people maybe looking outside in were thinking, that team is lucky, but you’re not just lucky in a game. You work hard for it. These girls showed that last year. They never gave up.
“I keep remembering the Adams (State) game where (Alexis Allard) scored with 14 seconds to go and then Kenzie King scored the free kick to win it in overtime. They never believed they were beat. With the new players you get every year, we just have to get back to that again. We’re not that far away from it.”
After a 9-7-2 season (7-4-1 RMAC), Clare’s first as head coach and the first in the program since 2012, the Mavericks are 0-2 to start this season, dropping a pair of close games on a trip to California, including a 2-0 loss to then-No. 22 Sonoma State. The Mavericks missed a couple of scoring chances early that could have changed that game, Clare said.
“If they go in, the other team starts to cower a little bit and get on their heels, and we have the momentum and who knows what happens then,” he said. “Obviously they didn’t go in and we still lost the game two-nil, but we just have to believe in ourselves, and the players have to believe in themselves. We tell them that all the time, we believe in them and that’s why they’re here.”
With four of their top scorers returning from last season, the Mavericks figure to have enough firepower.
Allard scored five goals as a freshman, and the 5-foot-5 midfielder from Phoenix is one of the young leaders on the team. Amanda Wenzel, a senior midfielder out of Coal Ridge High School who had four goals and two assists, is one of only three seniors on the roster, and Mackenzie King, a junior defender from Fruita Monument who scored three goals in 2016, helps lead a team that is still decidedly young.
That young team got to know one another on the long trip to California and saw the bond form in games against top competition.
“There was a lot of bonding,” Allard said. “A lot of time to hang out and get to know each other. On and off the pitch, we’re really there for each other. Both games were difficult and Sonoma was definitely a mental game. We were tired and exhausted, it was really hot, but when we’re all down and tired, I think our team is really good at keeping it positive and telling each other we can do it. That’s something a lot of other teams don’t have as well as we do.”
The Mavericks are breaking in an all-freshman goalkeeping squad, with Emily Signorio playing well on opening weekend. Clare was happy with how the Mavericks matched up against Humboldt State and Sonoma State other than a couple of breakdowns.
“We should have gotten a better result (against Humboldt, a 2-1 loss),” he said. “A set piece at 75 minutes, we switched off a little bit, a lack of concentration, and it killed us. Sonoma we knew would be a tough game but we go that way because we want to play the best teams and see how we compete.
“We defended really well, but defending so much for a long period of the game, you have a lapse of concentration, they capitalize on it.”
The Mavericks know if they can recapture the belief they had last fall, they can be right with the top teams in the RMAC, especially after what Clare saw on the opening weekend.
“When they get that and that penny finally drops, I think we’ll be a force to be reckoned with,” Clare said. “We’re young, and I don’t mind that, because they’re good enough and as (Allard) said, they have the mental toughness to get through it. They didn’t throw in the towel. For me as a coach, that’s really, really important. We just need to believe in our way.”