Lady Warriors soccer set for 2012 season

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Fans of Socorro’s Lady Warriors soccer team would likely love to remember the 2011 season. That high-powered squad built an impressive 18-2 regular season record, won 14 different contests by at least three goals and earned a trip to the New Mexico Girls State Soccer Championship as the three seed.

The team boasted the state’s leading goal scorer in Dezirae Armijo, reclaimed the Socorro Cup and proved its inarguable legitimacy by playing a revamped, gauntlet of a schedule. It was by all accounts a great season for head coach Mitch Carrejo and his team, and 2011 will be regarded with respect and adoration for some time to come.

But there was that one loathsome, woeful day in November that might still reside in the back’s of Socorroans’ minds.

Many will recall the gutting, almost unfathomable upset at the hands of Santa Fe Prep in the quarterfinals of the state tourney, a team it had beaten twice previous in 2011. Carrejo reiterated this week that he thought his girls played the better match, and the statistics from that contest back him up. There was no letdown, no let up in level of play. Socorro played it’s heart out, without a doubt.

But soccer can be fickle, temperamental, mercurial, and sometimes there is no amount of talent that can negate the terse and unforgiving nature of the sport.

And many know the saying, “talent will only get you so far,” and there’s some truth to that claim, but talent definitely helped get Socorro to the big dance last year. Fortunately for Carrejo, now in his ninth year as the girls coach, talent is something his squad shouldn’t be lacking again this year.

Armijo is back as a senior in 2012, and her 54 goals last year accounted for more than 50 percent of her team’s offense. She’ll likely blow past the New Mexico state record for career goals in 2012.

She’ll obviously have a target on her back, and without the departed Angelina Stanzione, who graduated in May, Armijo will have to handle the pressure of carrying an even bigger load for the Lady Warriors.

“I guess there is (more pressure) by what we’ve accomplished in the past year,” she said. But she also thinks this year’s squad will differ from last year’s in that their on-field communication is improved, and they talk to each other a lot more.

And added pressure or not, she has no dwindling expectations for herself or her team. Going to state is again in the plans for 2012.

“I would like to win state,” she said. “It’s my last year. It would be nice.”

For that to become a reality though, Carrejo will have to rely heavily on Armijo as well as veteran goalkeeper Taylor Hammack, both of whom have been offered collegiate soccer scholarships.

“It’s just a great asset to have. It’s invaluable,” Carrejo said of his team’s senior leadership.

That senior leadership will be paramount in helping along a team that lost four starters to graduation, three of those on defense.

“We need to rebuild our defense. That’s our main focus right now,” Carrejo said.

“Our midfield is coming back in tact, and Des (Armijo) our leading scorer is coming back. We’ll need to replace our other forward, but we just need to have somebody step up.”

Socorro does indeed have some girls who have seen their fair share of playing time, but it’s personnel does differ from last year’s squad to a point that the team is contemplating switching to a flat back four defense this year, a deviation from the diamond they’ve run recently.

The flat back four defense employs a strategy that forces the opposing offense to channel the ball where the defense wants it to, typically anywhere but up the middle of the pitch. A sweeper serves as an additional last line of defense, and one of the defensive intentions is to clear the ball and quickly step up field toward the opponent’s goal. With a scoring machine like Armijo at the forward position, that’s probably an extremely good idea.

“We’re going to try different things,” Carrejo said.

Whatever the team tries, their head coach knows that he’ll need to work in some of the young girls and get them used to the way the Lady Warriors do things. There’s no way to tell at this point what other teams have, but what Carrejo knows he does have are good, tough players with experience.

“We’ve got talent. We’re solid through 12 girls,” he said.

“If we can stay healthy we’ll be contending. I’m looking for a good, solid year again.”

The Socorro High School Lady Warriors will start their season on Monday, Aug. 20 when they play host to East Mountain at 3 p.m. They’ll defend their Socorro Cup title on Aug. 24-25, and the rematch with Santa Fe Prep will be contested on Friday, Sep. 7 in Santa Fe.