Warriors end 2012 on a high note

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Socorro boys head soccer coach Dennis Walsh had a plan for his team when he took over as head man this past summer.

He wanted his players to achieve a higher level of physical conditioning, and he wanted to teach them to spread the field and learn how to work from side to side. If Thursday's match with Ruidoso was any indication, he can check both of those goals off of his list.

"The whole summer was about getting in shape," Walsh said. "It showed at the end. Any one of those kids could have run 80 minutes. The conditioning and the fitness made a huge difference towards the end of the season."

That fitness level was more than apparent at Warrior Stadium on Oct. 25 as the Warriors raced to an early first half lead and eventually powered past the visiting team to take a 5-2 victory. It was their first District 3-3A win of the season, and it also happened to be the boys' final match of the year. In sending off Socorro's three seniors, the day couldn't have been scripted any better.

"It feels pretty good," departing senior John Carilli said. "All the guys on my team, they're young, but I love them. It's good to see them grow. It's good to see them get stronger."

And growth has indeed been the operative term for this young team, and growing pains have definitely been a part of this year's process. The Warriors finished the season with a 3-15 record and 1-7 in district, but you wouldn't really know it through any simple interaction with them. They have fun, they stay loose, and they appreciate that process, despite how difficult it may have been in the past months. And while no senior athlete wants to walk off the pitch for the final time with a losing record, the long-term goals for Socorro's program were not lost on them.

"These three seniors, they're just good boys," Walsh said. "I wish we could have got a few more wins for them. They're such good leaders. They never complained."

As far as the match goes, the Warriors proved that having a complete team on the pitch, void of injury or otherwise, made for a winning formula. Anthony Saez got Socorro on the board just seconds in to the match, and Mike Armijo took full advantage of a beautiful Sean Moore cross with four minutes left in the first half to give Socorro a 2-0 lead.

"For us to score that quick, to do to them what has happened to us all year long, it was just pedal to the metal," Walsh said. "It was just beautiful passing."

Ruidoso made things interesting in the second half though, when Jose Roque beat Warriors goalkeeper Will Schaffer on a breakaway to cut the lead in half. Then with 21 minutes left in the match, Armando Gomez knotted things up when he slow-rolled a penalty kick past Schaffer.

In August, this team may have lost focus and allowed Ruidoso to sprint to the finish and pick up a win. But it's October now, and these Warriors had no designs on rolling over.

Four minutes later Armijo scored his second goal to regain the lead for his team, then Colton Wheeler pulled off an almost ridiculous far-post shot eight minutes later to all but seal the victory. Carilli added a determined fifth goal in injury time to send him and fellow seniors, Schaffer and Kris "The Rock" DeCosta, out in proper fashion.

And even though it may have been somewhat bittersweet to unintentionally wait until the final match of the season to put it all together, it all gelled nonetheless, and it seemed like the months of hard work had finally paid off for Socorro. For the first time this season, it finally looked like the future would be good to this team.

"We really pulled it together," Schaffer said. "I expect to see great things from this team in the future. For us to show the individual talent we have up top, I think it really sets up next season really well. I want these fans to come back out here and have a good time watching us. We appreciate them, we appreciate our coaches. It has been a good season."

And even though Socorro may not have posted many wins this season, there are still levels of achieved success Walsh and his squad can't ignore.

"The camaraderie, the trust in each other, that's irreplaceable," Walsh said. "That will pay dividends for three, four, five years down the road."