The Mingus Union High School girls soccer team came within one goal of being the best Division III team in the state last season, and that experience has this year’s team working even harder to make it back to the state championship game again this season.
With six returning starters and more depth than at any time in recent memory, Marauders Head Coach Buddy Rhodes said he is anticipating another successful season.
“We’re not bashful to say we’re planning on winning a lot of games,” Rhodes said. “We exceeded our expectations last year. I thought we’d make it into state, but my goal was to make it into the second or third round, and we just kept rolling and winning and made it to the state championship.”
Senior midfielders and team co-captains Haley Backus and Emily Nelson will lead the team onto the field this season, joined by returning starters, Martina Bueno at forward, Brenna McCullum at defensive center, Kelby Gillis at defensive midfielder, and Isis Maez at defensive center.
Rhodes said the team will welcome two other outstanding players this year.
Junior Gabi Guerrero was destined to be one of the Marauders’ best players last season, but injured her knee before the season. She’s back healthy and so far doing well, Rhodes said, and will be a big benefit to the team. Also, Daniela Santana was a transfer student to the school as a junior last year, so she worked out with the team all year but couldn’t play per Arizona Interscholastic Association rules. Both girls will rotate with Bueno at the striker positions.
In addition to Backus and Gillis, the team will use sophomore Cassidy Kitchen at center midfielder. The outside midfielders will be Nelson and Gabby McCootch, with Stephanie Garcia and Allie Hanks rotating in.
The Marauders graduated some of their best defensive players from last season but retain McCullum and Maez and will also rotate Sarah Van Kirk into the center defensive position. Newcomer Melissa Meyers, who finished the season on the varsity team last year, will be at one outside defensive position, and the other outside defensive position is still a competition between Dani Glick and Amanda Smith, Rhodes said.
For the full story, please see the Wednesday, Nov. 20, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.