ALBUQUERQUE ACADEMY CHARGERS
Coach: Peter Glidden (3rd year)
Last season: 19-4; Class 5A state champions
Key players: Eliza Mariner, sr., FW; Erin Pickett, sr., D; Anna Carpio, sr., MF; Tessa Anderson, sr., FW; Gabby Sanchez, sr., MF.
Outlook: Although the Chargers will be new in goal, this remains one of the state’s top teams and they expect to play deep into this season. Mariner (headed to Cornell) is a superb offenesive force, with nearly 100 goals in her career already. She is a strong, quick, dynamic talent. But this team, Glidden said, has other weapons, including Anderson up top. Sophomore Lorelei Logan is stepping in between the pipes.
ALBUQUERQUE HIGH BULLDOGS
Coach: Natasha Lee (7th year)
Last season: 15-4; lost to Eldorado in 6A first round
Key players: Zaria Katesigwa, soph., FW; Sabrina Reyes, soph., MF; Gabriela Meraz-Fishbein, soph., MF; Natalia Sanchez, jr., FW; Teegan Obenshain, sr., MF.
Outlook: Led by the sophomore phenom, Katesigwa, AHS has eight starters returning and the Bulldogs have high expectations for the coming season. Reyes and Meraz-Fishbein form a strong tandem in the middle (Meraz-Fishbein’s older sister, Alisa, is not playing soccer this year as she focuses on cross country), and there is strong chemistry on the pitch with this group, according to Lee. “Phenomenal,” she said. AHS, along with Sandia and Rio Grande, will be teams to watch in newly-formed District 5-5A.
ATRISCO HERITAGE ACADEMY JAGUARS
Coach: Kaycie Robinson (1st year)
Last season: 2-16
Key players: Erica Moreno, sr., MF/D; America Gutierrez, soph., MF/D/FW; Jasmin Resendiz, jr., D/MF; Jackelyn Olivas, sr., MF/FW; Naomi Chavarria, soph., MF/FW.
Outlook: Robinson steps in to take over the Jaguars in what she calls a “building” year. For the first time, girls soccer players at Atrisco Heritage are in an athletics class, which Robinson thinks will help the Jags in that process. She believes the Jags might catch teams off guard if they play in space well and defend better than people expect. “Everyone expects us to lose, and that’s a nice position for us to be in,” Robinson said.
Coach: Ricardo Varela (2nd year)
Last season: 1-17
Key players: Sydney Valdez, sr., FW/MF; Alycia Portio, sr., MF; Sayra Gomez, sr., D.
Outlook: The Eagles struggled last season, as they were plagued with injuries, forcing Varela to call up a good portion of his JV team. Many of those girls were inexperienced and not quite prepared for the jump. This season, the team brings more talent and more depth. If Belen stays healthy, Belen will certainly win more games and possibly make a run for the playoffs.
Coach: Phillippe Mballa Zambo (3rd year)
Last season: 7-10
Key players: Gabriela Barela Stricker, jr., FW; Katalina Plancatre, soph., FW; Aylin Mijares, fresh., GK; Flor Castillo, soph., D; Abigail Rivas, jr., MF.
Outlook: Although the Spartans have only two seniors, Zamo expects this team to make the state tournament. “Absolutely,” he said. “There has been a lot of improvement in the players’ habits and training.” He was especially effusive in praising Stricker, who was the team’s leading goal scorer last year was voted all-district. Mijares likely will be seeing a lot of action in net as a freshman, trying to fill the void left by Mia Montaño, who has already started for New Mexico State this season.
BOSQUE SCHOOL BOBCATS
Coach: Jacob Cortez (5th year)
Last season: 15-5-2; lost to Sandia Prep in 1A/4A semifinals
Key players: Aviva Elliott, soph., MF; Hannah Pachero, jr., GK; Grace Freed, sr., MF; Maya Montoya, sr., MF; Ashna Jaffer, jr., D.
Outlook: With eight starters back in the fold, Cortez fully expects the Bobcats to be a serious threat in what is now the Class 1A/3A division. There are 17 girls on this roster, and all of them should contribute along the way, and that depth will help Bosque in a tough, competitive district that also includes Sandia Prep, St. Michael’s and Robertson.
Coach: Gary Zink (7th year)
Last season: 15-5; lost to Volcano Vista in 6A quarterfinals
Key players: Marah Rosato, sr., D; Sydni Burrup, jr., FW; Sarah Torres, jr., MF; Jaylan Romero, soph., FW; Nicole Estrada, jr., D.
Outlook: This is a quick, technically proficient group that Zink has this year, although he acknowledges that Cibola could be sharper with its tactics. Rosato is expected to by a dynamic player on this team, and a terrific stopper in the back. Burrup brings speed and proven finishing abilities up top; she and Romero both have to step in for the graduated Lexi Baca, an outstanding multi-year scoring threat who graduated earlier this year. Zink said he has more depth than in previous seasons.
Coach: Greg Rusk (7th year)
Last season: 19-3; lost to La Cueva in 6A championship game
Key players: Madyson Barela, sr., MF; McKenna Ford, jr., FW; Jennifer Mueller, sr., FW; Kassandra Sandoval, sr., D; Makayla Stephens, jr., D; Josie Crump, jr., MF.
Outlook: The Storm lost three very important players to graduation, including two-thirds of its scoring punch. “The spine of the team,” Rusk said. Cleveland should excel in the midfield, but there are questions about the center of the defense and locating goal scorers, plus keeping up a high level in goal. For the goals, Barela is the top offensive player returning, but she’ll need others to supplement the attack.
DEL NORTE KNIGHTS
Coach: Drew Kexel (1st year)
Last season: 4-13-1
Key players: Savannah Hess, jr., MF; Ashton Reyes, jr., MF; Kianah Grandberry, sr., D; Savannah Romero, jr., MF; Lexi Estrada, jr., D.
Outlook: The Knights are in for a season of change with a new turf field for home games and Kexel moving to the head-coaching spot after 14 years as a JV coach and varsity assistant. Del Norte also has just nine returning lettermen, but Kexel believes an experienced midfield led by Hess and Reyes can keep his squad competitive in a revamped District 6-4A. “This team is hungry to improve upon its record and make a statement in its new district,” Kexel said.
EAST MOUNTAIN TIMBERWOLVES
Coach: John Sabrowski (2nd year)
Last season: 7-12
Key players: Emma Rocco, jr., FW; Jasmine Pellerin, jr., MF; Azalea Hughes, jr., D; Kimberly Stephenson, jr., MF; Hannah Shirley, soph., GK.
Outlook: Sabrowski is optimistic about some of the “fantastic new young players” that will help his returners with depth this season, something the team could have used more of a year ago. Patience is key, he says, when attacking. If the Timberwolves can control the pace and follow the leadership from veterans like by captains Pellerin and Hughes, he says the close knit group can make a run to the state tournament.
Coach: Andrew Wiese (3rd year)
Last season: 9-10-1; lost to Cleveland in 6A quarterfinals
Key players: Sophia Roberts, sr., MF; Hannah Dahl, sr., D; Emma Gevelhoff, jr., MF; Katie Lopez, sr., MF.
Outlook: Wiese said this will be a super young team, filled with freshmen and sophomores, and Eldorado will have a shorter bench than usual. Roberts (a huge part of the offense) and Dahl (the anchor in the back) captain this team and they are probably the two best players on this roster. The upside is definitely there for the Eagles, but how quickly will this come together for the burnt orange? They do need to become tighter on defense, Wiese said.
Coach: Mike Thomas (4th year)
Last season: 2-16
Key players: Andrea Regino, sr., D; America Aguirre Zamora, jr., D; Abril Rodriguez, sr., MF.
Outlook: It could be another long season for the Hornets. The team, which played with a small roster last season, has just 12 players listed on its roster this year. Thomas said the team is tough and determined and will play hard despite being undermanned.
HOPE CHRISTIAN HUSKIES
Coach: Kristal Coker (2nd year)
Last season: 11-11; lost to Socorro in 1A/4A quarterfinals
Key players: Ava Rupp, sr., MF; Bianca Sikora, sr., MF; Brenna McGuirk, sr., MF; Jenna Walters, sr., D; Kyra Stafford, jr., D.
Outlook: With seven starters returning, and a much quicker, more athletic lineup, the Huskies hope they can make an impact moving up into Class 4A, where they’ll be stuck in a district with defending 5A state champ Albuquerque Academy. Hope has a solid bunch of young players in this program, including freshman forward Hannah Gutierrez, expected to provide a steady stream of goals.
LA CUEVA BEARS
Coach: Amber Ashcraft (21st year)
Last season: 20-1; Class 6A state champions
Key players: Deja Sandoval, sr., MF; Hannah Rivera, sr., MF; Taryn Robles, soph., C; Teagan Yan, sr., W; Jordyn Maes, sr., FW; Hannah Duffy, sr., FW.
Outlook: Sure, several key players graduated, but the Bears have restocked and will certainly be among the favorites in Class 5A this fall. Sandoval and Rivera are three-year starters, and Maes, the younger sister of recently graduated Karlee Maes, will pick up the scoring where big sis left off. Junior Emma Moore comes in to play goal for Kat Robinson, who’s now at the University of Pittsburgh. “A very quality keeper,” Ashcraft said of Moore.
LOS LUNAS TIGERS
Coach: Anthony Escajeda (1st year)
Last season: 14-7-1; lost to Aztec in 5A quarterfinals
Key players: Kambrie Sanchez, sr., GK; Flora Goldberg, sr., FW/MF/D.
Outlook: Though in his first year, Escajeda isn’t exactly new to Los Lunas’ program. He spent a number of years at the head of the JV team, so the transition was not very jarring for the players. This season, the Tigers are focusing more on teamwork as a whole. Escajeda says they have individual talent, but are also using “team ideas” and trying to build a lasting program. Part of that includes giving everybody opportunities to play at multiple positions, thus becoming more dynamic as a whole.
Coach: Todd Alam (4th year)
Last season: 8-9-1
Key players: Jennesis Martinez, sr., FW; Katelyn Alam, sr., MF; Sarah Cooley, sr., FW/MF; Bella Muñoz, soph., FW/MF; Brianna Johnson, soph., D.
Outlook: Manzano certainly can build an attack around Martinez, who was Class 6A’s leading scorer (per nmsoccer.com) with 28 goals and eight assists to total 64 points. The senior class is strong, and the sophomore class is promising, but Alam is trying to build depth. Manzano is eager to see to what extend it can contend in district play (5-5A this time), now that there is no La Cueva powerhouse to deal with.
Coach: Val Luker (11th year)
Last season: 13-7; lost to Santa Fe Prep in 1A/4A quarterfinals
Key players: Ashley Strader, sr., FW/MF; Chloe Rector, sr., FW/MF; Cecilia Hernandez, sr., D; Araceli Kamplain, jr., GK.
Outlook: The Pintos have some key pieces returning from a successful 2017 season, including a solid 1-2 scoring punch from Strader and Rector. But Luker admits that her team’s new district (2-4A with Los Alamos, Pojoaque Valley and Taos) is a bit of a mystery. “We’ve played Los Alamos in the past,” Luker said, “but I’m not sure what to expect other than that. It should be an interesting year.”
RIO GRANDE RAVENS
Coach: Carlos Mandujano (9th year)
Last season: 12-6
Key players: Lluvia Rojo, soph., GK; Jacqueleen Carrillo, jr., FW; Alexis Trejo, sr., D; Sofia Madera, jr., D; Nadine Vallez, jr., MF.
Outlook: Mandujano is confident his team will improve this season with 90 percent of last year’s team returning. Last year’s squad had just three seniors, none of whom were starters. Mandujano would have been more optimistic but the Ravens suffered a impactful injury when junior Celia Saiz tore her ACL during club play in May. The starting midfielder earned All-District honors last year. The Ravens, who have 17 club players on the team, are aiming for the state playoffs after back-to-back 12-6 seasons.
RIO RANCHO RAMS
Coach: Uwe Balzis (22nd year)
Last season: 6-12-3; lost to Cibola in 6A first round
Key players: Cera Moots, sr., D; Emma Juarez, sr., MF.
Outlook: This will be a relatively young team, heavy on sophomores, but Balzis’ teams tend to be very competitive no matter what their composition. “I think for the next 1-2 years, it is about trying to get those players on that (varsity) level,” Balzis said. Junior Hailey Howes and sophomore Tessa Holderman are battling to become the No. 1 goalkeeper.
Coach: Jay Sheraden (1st year)
Last season: 12-7-1; lost to La Cueva in 6A quarterfinals
Key players: Hannah Gallegos, sr., MF; Sydney Groth, sr., FW; Sapirah Broussard, sr., FW; Emma Therkildsen, fresh., FW; Jessica Ganley, sr., D.
Outlook: In Gallegos, who has committed to Denver Univeresity, Sandia has one of New Mexico’s best players and she will be a primary focal point for the Matadors, who move into a new district this season. Sheraden just became Sandia’s interim head coach late last week, so the Matadors are in flux as the season begins. What impact will that have? Broussard (coming off a knee injury) and Groth add plenty of speed and athleticism up top for Sandia.
SANDIA PREP SUNDEVILS
Coach: Matt Westerlund (1st year)
Last season: 16-7; Class 1A/4A state champions
Key players: Jacqueline Rodriguez, jr., MF; Lyndsay McDermott, sr., D; Shelby Horan, sr., MF; Lauryn Biddle, jr., MF; Ellie Cook, soph., FW; Samantha Jeffries, jr., GK.
Outlook: The Sundevils return seven starters as they start a new era with Westerlund, a Sandia Prep alum who had been an assistant to Sandia Prep boys coach Tommy Smith for the last half a dozen years. Rodriguez will be a conduit as an attacking mid for the Sundevils, as will senior Alex Forrester who is coming off a major injury. One thing Westerlund hopes to find early are solid goal scorers. The midfield and back line look very stout.
ST. PIUS SARTANS
Coach: David Sullivan (4th year)
Last season: 11-5-1; lost to Los Alamos in 5A quarterfinals
Key players: Esperanza Chavez, sr., MF; Sierra Saenz, jr., MF; Hannah Irons, jr., MF; Grace Romero, jr., MF; Emma Donlin, soph., MF.
Outlook: Although the Sartans expect to be productive up top, they are rebuilding the back line for 2018, and St. Pius, which opened the season last week with a couple of games in Ohio, also starts the year without a tested goalkeeper. Senior Izzy Pilon is working her way back into that position. But with a talented group of mids, led by Irons and also Saenz and Chavez, St. Pius will have myriad offensive options. St. Pius has to navigate a very tough schedule, but should contend in the postseason if it can get along early with some youth.
Coach: Kimberly Chavez-Burkhard (10th year)
Last season: 10-10-2; lost to Farmington in 5A quarterfinals
Key players: Ariana Monge, sr. FW/D; Belia Reyes, sr., GK.
Outlook: Valencia struggled last season following the tragic passing of player Erika Herrara. However, the Jaguars made a decent run towards the end of the season. This year, the team appears to be focused on consistency the entire season. According to Chavez-Burkhard, Valencia has seen a major improvement in conditioning. While the Jags lacked offensively in the past, they hope to be a stronger offensive side in 2018.
Coach: Gabe Roybal (1st year)
Last season: 7-11
Key players: Samantha Lopez-Barton, jr., MF; Elexia Padilla, sr., FW; Erin Lucero, soph., MF; Gabrielle Sisneros, soph., MF; Jennifer Baidon, jr., FW.
Outlook: After losing nine seniors — and, just in the last month, their head coach — the Vikings open with plenty of question marks as they move into Class 4A. Baidon, sort of a utility-type athlete, gives Roybal flexibility as she can play multiple positions. Roybal said he likes what he’s seen from what he describes as a tight-knit group with good chemistry and overall competitiveness. There won’t be a JV team this season, however.
VOLCANO VISTA HAWKS
Coach: Samantha Lucero (11th year)
Last season: 14-6; lost to La Cueva in 6A semifinals
Key players: Dalis Bruce, jr., D; Victoria Mares, sr., MF; Cierra Ramirez, sr., FW; Natalia Bruciaga, jr., FW; Arianna Cisneros, jr., MF. Outlook: There are nine starters returning, and the Hawks look solid at every level as they look to mount another deep run in November. Ramirez led the team in scoring last season. Junior Vanessa Guevara figures to step into net, which is one of the few places where the Hawks lost an athlete to graduation. Cisneros, Bruciaga and Bruce all have already verbally committed to the University of New Mexico, Lucero said. A definite contender for a blue trophy.
WEST MESA MUSTANGS
Coach: Miranda Sena (2nd year)
Last season: 5-13
Key players: Jamyah Doyle, sr., D; Alejandra Estrada, sr., MF; Seferina Astorga, jr., D; Jackelyn Hernandez, fresh., GK; Mariah Guajardo, soph., GK/MF.
Outlook: As the majority of the varsity is 9th and 10th graders, Sena realizes the Mustangs are rebuilding. With that in mind, she said, West Mesa is focusing on some of the more technical aspects, such as passing and communication. Sena said she has detected a much more positive attitude toward making the Mustangs more competitive.
— Compiled by James Yodice, Ken Sickenger, Randy Harrison, Steve Virgen, Geoff Grammer, Kevin Hendricks, Bob Christ and Dustin Copeland