Home sweet home: Palisade soccer team continues climb under Sorensen, will host Evergreen
When Raina Sorensen joined the Palisade High School soccer program four years ago as an assistant coach, she knew there was a lot of potential to work with.
During her three years as an assistant coach, Sorensen saw steady progression peaking with last season’s first playoff appearance in 11 years.
In Sorensen’s first year as head coach, the Bulldogs have continued climbing, earning the No. 16 seed and a home playoff game at 6 p.m. today against No. 17 Evergreen at Walker Field.
“Right away I knew that the girls wanted to learn,” Sorensen said. “They had a lot of heart, and kids like (goalie) Amelia Davis and (forward) Mackenzie Clark wanted to be good, and get better.”
It was an impressive jump for the Bulldogs, who finished 8-7 in 2009 and barely got into the playoffs as the last seed. Palisade lost to eventual champion Wheat Ridge in the first round. This year, the Bulldogs went 11-3-1 including a span where they won eight straight games.
Sorensen said she was caught by surprise with how strong her team played.
“I was thinking we could maybe get the No. 3 spot in conference,” Sorensen said. “But halfway through the season, I re-evaluated and said I want to have a home playoff game because we were playing so well.”
The Bulldogs’ success can be pinpointed to the right combination of hard work and talent. Palisade’s eight seniors have put in four years of dedication to set a tone for the Bulldogs’ program.
“It starts with our senior class. Of the eight, six have been there since day one,” Sorensen said. “They’ve been through games where we’ve lost 7-0, so they know what that feels like and they knew that change would only come with hard work.”
But it’s also been the talented underclassmen like sophomore Flannery Davis and freshman Courtney Clark who have made this Bulldogs team special. Davis led the Bulldogs with 19 goals this season, and Clark added six goals despite taking a three-year layoff from soccer before this season.
“I was a little nervous with Flannery coming into this season, because I knew she was going to always be double teamed,” Sorensen said. “But she’s overcome it and scored more goals than last year. I think part of it is she has a great attitude and loves this team.”
Although it’s been Davis and Clark leading the charge offensively, a large part of Palisade’s success this season can be put on the defense, led by a four-year starter in goal Amelia Davis. Davis has allowed only seven goals all season.
“We are very cohesive as a team,” Amelia Davis said. “Last year we were excited to be there, but this year there is a different mentality. We want to take advantage of having a home game.”
Sorensen said today’s key against the Cougars is staying aggressive.
“We are going to have to be first to the ball,” Sorensen said. “Whether that’s in the air or on the ground, we have to be the first ones there because it sets the tone and gets us ready.”
If Palisade can advance past Evergreen, it will play the winner of No. 1 seed Lewis-Palmer and No. 32 seed Skyview on Saturday in the Sweet 16.
“We aren’t going to do anything at practice that’s going to make a difference,” Sorensen said. “We just have to go into the game and do all the little things that we’ve worked on all season.”