Maybe this will be the season the Rio Rancho High School girls socecr team can "bear" down and defeat La Cueva in a meaningful game.
Two-time defending Class 5A champ La Cueva dealt the Rams a third of their losses last season, a 3-1 setback in the semifinals of the APS Metro Championships and a 2-0 season-ending loss in the state semifinals.
It marked the third year in a row the Bears ended the Rams' playoff run: In 2010, it was a 1-0 loss in the semifinals; in 2011, it was a 2-0 loss in the quarterfinals.
Still, a 16-6 record is nothing to sneeze at, and head coach Uwe Balzis thinks the Rams can at least repeat as District 1-5A runners-up.
"We have three freshmen this year who had a really good tryout," Balzis said. "We hope they make an impact — one of them is Elena Gurule. The second one is Leilani Baker, who is the sister of Mariah Baker (a junior). And the third one is Brittney Harris."
Bingo: Gurule scored the Rams' only goal Friday in their 1-0 win over visiting Mayfield. It came in the game's 23rd minute off a corner kick from Brittany Shrader.
"We will see where our strengths are," he said. "We're still trying to figure it out. In the back, we will have to figure it out."
Krissy Stinson returns between the pipes; Kathryn Harris backs her up. The two are seniors.
Shrader, a junior forward who led the team in scoring with 16 goals last season, is back, as is Imani Morlock, who was third in scoring, with six goals and two assists.
Mariah Baker and Makenna Johnson had four goals apiece, and they're back with the Rams.
Stinson and Shrader were All-State second-team honorees last season.
"Shrader looks good — she had good scrimmages and we expect a lot out of her," he said.
The Rams had about 55 players trying out for the program, and Balzis now has a C team for the first time in recent memory.
"I think this year, the slight advantage belongs to Cibola (in District 1-5A)," he said. "If I heard the numbers right, they apparently have nine returning seniors, so they will be loaded and it's up to us to come up with good games against them."
The Rams split their meetings with Volcano Vista and swept Cleveland.
Statewide, he said, for soccer supremacy, look to La Cueva, Eldorado and Sandia.
Following their opening-game win, Balzis told the girls there was a lot of room for improvement, even though the Trojans didn't pose much of a threat to score.
"I think what was a little bit disappointing was the finishing — we need to do better," he said, following the 1-0 win over Mayfield, "because (Mayfield) is an average team and we play against better teams and we will not get that many scoring opportunities.
"We also had a few passes that were really poor in our own half, and we need to do better on this and not give the other team opportunities to score on our bad passing," he added.
Headers: The Rams are 7-1 in their last eight season openers, last losing to Las Cruces, 1-0, to start the 2009 season.
… Rio Rancho easily disposed of Oñate Saturday, 7-1, in their second game of the season.
… The Rams faced Highland in a first-round game of the APS Metro Championships Tuesday afternoon. On Thursday at 6:45 p.m., the Rams meet Sandia at the APS complex in a second-round game of the metro tournament.