There are a lot of high hopes for the Sterling Lady Rangers soccer team and why not?
A majority of the roster returns from a team that won one match all season and went 1-13 in District 21-6A play with a relatively young roster.
Second-year head coach Clyde Messiah comes into a campaign that promises to see marked improvement with a number of girls coming back in better physical shape and hungrier following a rough outing a year ago.
“Our attacking phase of the game is looking very good compared to last year,” Messiah said. “Our entire starting midfield from last year is back and they’ve learned how to play well together. We’re also better equipped at the forward position this year – 1 had to play a defensive midfield last year due to team needs and the other missed the season due to injury.
“Our defense could use a little more work. Out of our back five, we are only returning two players.”
That will be also key since Sterling defense was the team’s strong point in 2019.
Seven starters return this season including Allison Reyes – who scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Robert E. Lee in a Dec. 13 scrimmage – Nicole Herrera and Myrka Perez who compose the center midfield.
Neidra Rodriguez and Naomi De Jesus are back on defense and goalkeeper Veronica Mares and defensive midfield/forward Kelli Dodson return to the scene.
“We are communicating way better with each other and we are bonded better this year,” Dodson said. “We didn’t read other that well and now we know each other’s skills better. I’ve seen that improve a lot this year especially with the forwards and the midfield. From the scrimmage, I feel like we have definitely improved.”
Messiah also has a promising returnee, Isabel De La Rosa back at forward after sitting out the previous campaign with a knee injury.
“She is an excellent attacking player and one of our senior co-captains,” Messiah said.
She will be joined by other top newcomers centerback Sara Morales, defensive midfielder Yarerzi Trejo and forward Story Valdorinos.
“We’ve been together for two years now so we know how we each play and where to place the ball so that will help us a lot,” De La Rosa said. “We have better chemistry and last year was rough because we had a lot of injuries. That messed with our heads, but this year we are a lot more confident and we are better physically.
“We had a full offseason with our coach and that’s helped us a lot.”
The district won’t be an easy one to navigate through to get a playoff spot, but the Lady Rangers do feel optimistic compared to last year’s results.
“The second and third-place teams from last year have new head coaches, three teams fought closely for the fourth spot and we played well fairly well against those teams,” Messiah said. “So nothing is out of the question this year.”
The key has been accountability and according to De La Rosa, these Lady Rangers have no trouble in that department.
“Last year we were afraid to step on each others’ toes and critique each other,” she said. “But now that we have known each other so well, we can and we are not afraid because we know we are just helping each other.”