Any soccer team that returns 10 of its 11 starters from the prior season can confidently say it is in a good situation.
Javier Pineda and his Camp Verde High School girls soccer team find themselves in that exact position in 2017.
“Right now we think we’re going to have a good team because we have almost everybody [back],” Pineda said. “The girls are picking it up a lot quicker than last year.”
He was referring to the Cowboys’ conditioning and ball skills. The team has been hard at work to shake off the rust from summertime.
A defense that returns two starting seniors is the team’s strong point.
“It’s not that I’m not confident in the offense, it’s just I feel my defense is a lot stronger, they’ve been playing at that position since they started playing,” Pineda said.
Confidence is what Pineda hopes to instill in his girls most. It was something that was lacking last season, when attitudes would be down even before the first whistle.
“So they step off the bus and say, ‘We’re going to win this game,’” Pineda said. “Trying to change that, so that way they get more confident.”
Last season the Cowboys finished third in the 2A Central Region with a 4-4 record, and now look to close the gap with Chino Valley High School and Northland Preparatory Academy.
And the team has shown it can before.
Pineda spoke about last season’s senior day game, when the Cowboys scored first and maintained the lead for a period against Chino Valley, the reigning state title holder. Putting the 3-1 final result aside, it was encouraging.
“I know we have the girls to do that. I know that we have a good group of kids so that we can be in the top four at least, but like I told them, ‘It depends on you guys. If you guys want it, you guys will play hard,’” Pineda said.
The Cowboys’ first test will come at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31, at Holbrook High School. The home opener is set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, against St. Johns High School.