Warrior boys hoping to rebound on the pitch

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When Dennis Walsh took over as head man for the Socorro boys Soccer team in June, he had a plan, and that plan was pretty simple: to get his kids in better shape. That’s not to say they were in bad shape, because soccer isn’t a sport the Hamilton Porter’s of the world were destined to compete in.

Jonathan Miller/El Defensor Chieftain: Senior Willie Schaffer will provide the Warriors with size and strength in the middle for this year’s team.

However, Walsh noticed during the 2011 season that the team was wearing down during the second half of many matches, so he implemented a challenging summer conditioning program intended to increase his players’ ability to finish out games. That program would undoubtedly make the Great Hambino cringe, but so far it’s moving along as expected for the Warriors, who have shown an improved sense of commitment.

At the beginning of the summer, about 12 or 13 guys would show up for any given practice. Now they get about 25 out every day.

Walsh said his team scrimmaged New Mexico Tech’s club team on Wednesday, and after 90 minutes his guys were still running strong.

“We figure, if we play 90 minutes against those guys, 80 minutes against high school guys shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.

Walsh thinks the summer program is definitely making a huge impact for is team, and if conditioning were ever an issue for Socorro, it’s one of the few they’ll likely face internally. Many of the players on the team have previous experience on the pitch together in American Youth Soccer Organization play.

“They already know each other, they get along really well,” Walsh said. “We’ve had no quibbling, nothing like that. They enjoy being out here.”

Warrior’s senior Willie Schaffer agrees.

“We all get along,” he said. “That’s something I try and make sure of as an older guy, that we get along.”

Schaffer is one of three seniors on the squad replacing the three seniors from last year’s team who graduated. Along with John Carilli and Kris DeCosta, the veteran trio will carry a good amount of the workload for a fast, but young team that hasn’t posted many victories in the past two years. But you wouldn’t really be able to tell that by Schaffer’s popularly calm demeanor, and regardless of what transpired in the past, this Socorro team is another one with fairly lofty expectations.

“I think it should always be a goal to get to the state tournament,” Schaffer said. “With a lot of young guys, I think it’d be a really good feat. We have good players, we’ve just got to make sure we keep meshing and play to our strengths.”

As with any good coach, Walsh indeed sees some strengths on this 2012 team in his older guys, as well as the younger ones.

“These seniors seem to be a little bigger, a little stronger,” he said. “Willie and Chris are not as fast as some of the younger guys, but they’re so solid in the middle, and they’re so strong. They’re as big as the college guys we were playing against.”

That size in the middle will play nicely into the 4-4-2 style the Warriors will use this year. It’s a common strategy that emphasizes the roles of midfielders and fullbacks, and it’s adaptable, whether a team decides to attack or defend. And of course, Socorro has the personnel on hand to do just that. They’ll use their youthful speed on the outside to feed the big men, as feeding the big men is usually a good idea.

Players such as Sean Moore and Mike Armijo on the wing could have an impact, despite their youth and size.

“They’re younger and small, but they’re strong,” Walsh said. “It’s going to be really nice to put them out on the wings so we can put some of these crosses on these big guys. Who knows what can happen?”

The outcome of the 2012 season for the Socorro High School Warriors is indeed an unpredictable one, but the future of the program might not be so difficult to foresee. Walsh might be in his first season as head coach, but he’s coached a lot of his players for six or seven years. They know him and understand his dedication to Socorro soccer.

“I just feel pressure to make these guys understand what this means,” Schaffer said.

“I want to help them try to lead for the future, always trying to build the program. Dennis is trying to be here for the long haul, so I want to help him with that.”

And it’s precisely that type of unselfish, mature attitude that makes Walsh think his squad can produce some special moments on the pitch this year.

He sees that his guys have a hunger in them, especially the juniors and seniors who have been in the program for a while.

“Now that they see they’ve got a few more pieces with these young guys that are so fast, they’re committed,” he said.

“Our goal, and we think it’s a fairly reachable goal, is to win district.

“It’s going to be fun this season.”

The Warriors hit the pitch for the first time this season on Monday, Aug. 20, when East Mountain comes to town. Kick-off is slated for 5:00 p.m.