The Lady Warriors have been tasked with getting more wins and doing the best in their community.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

Second-year Lady Warriors soccer coach Amanda Saenz is looking for progress on and off the pitch this season because she also wants success in the classroom.

“I told the girls at practice this week my goal is to see every one of them graduate. To ensure they have opportunities outside of soccer,” Saenz said.

People play soccer for a number of reasons, but when it comes to the bottom line, Saenz wants her Socorro Lady Warriors to realize education is the key to their success in life.

“Some of them like (soccer) as something for them to find a sense of belonging. Some are more competitive, like Faith Lucero, Abrianna Romero, and Jada Castillo. But my biggest goal for them is to see every single one of those girls from eighth grade to this year, to graduate and find something afterward,” Saenz said.

Of course, Saenz has goals for the upcoming season on the field.

“As far as a competitive season, I want to try and compete for the district title again. I don’t want to get rolled over. I want the girls to find challenges and embrace the challenge and just be better players.”

Saenz and her soccer program are growing together. Last year produced five wins, but four of those came in the final five matches of the season. The most telling win was a 2-0 revenge victory against Hatch Valley that was payback for a 2-0 loss against the Lady Bears earlier in District 3-3A play.

Now it’s not just about getting the most out of her team but also about getting the most out of herself as a coach.

“I have that first year under my belt, which was a rough year. It’s about being a better version of myself — I learned a lot last season. As a coach, I learned the level of intensity to have the patience I need. The communication that I need to have. I have the caring so much about my players down. It’s about learning my weaknesses and being a better coach to these girls with different styles,” Saenz said.

The Lady Warriors’ coach admits she’s into every game with her players, and every game also brings more experience for a coach.

“I, as a coach, get amped up, and I get anxious. I have a hundred thousand thoughts going through my mind about different scenarios or different combinations to try on the field and different styles. There are all kinds of different formations to try,” Sanez said. “As a coach need to be more patient and just wait it out and see what happens a little bit more. I found that patience when we played against St. Mike’s at home. I think that was even though we lost; that was our best game of the entire season last year.”

That was because St. Michael’s blanked Socorro 4-0 in September, and seven days later, the Lady Warriors lost a 4-3 squeaker. That level of improvement in such a short time served as a significant confidence booster that led to a strong finish for Socorro.

With plenty of time to think of how to best utilize her talent, Socorro soccer fans will see some pieces moved on Saenz’s “chessboard” as the season progresses.

“Faith will have to find a bigger role this year. She’s going to have to move to middle-mid this year. She will have to see a field from a different perspective than she normally does,” Saenz said. “Aubrey (goalkeeper) will have to really step up and embrace challenges. She did that for us a lot last year. Jada is going to need to do the same. All of my upper classes, all my veterans, are going to have to do that. They’re just going to have to embrace something that’s not their norm.”

What’s the most significant on-the-field improvement Saenz expects to see this year?

“Probably their communication. These girls are a lot more vocal than last year. I expect that to be a bigger thing. We’re going to have more wins this year. I’m putting that out there. I’m going to manifest it and say there’s going to be more wins. I don’t know. It’s just a commitment to their community.,” she said.

Saenz also wants her team to embrace their community and vice-versa. It’s part of why the Lady Warriors are starting to host soccer clinics on Fridays for youth players to build on their skills.

“I’ve talked to the girls, and instead of having practice on Fridays, we’re going to hold clinics for students. So we’ll do age groups: one Friday, five to six-year-olds, the next Friday, seven to eight. The next one is 8-10 and so on, I think, to have a strong community and be competitive in soccer, it must start from the youth, just like wrestling does, just like basketball used to,” Saenz said.

Saenz points out the efforts she has seen Socorro cross country coach Beth Cadol put into her runners.

“Beth is doing an amazing job building up her program, and she is taking the kids with younger siblings and having them run alongside them. It’s amazing to see. I love coming to work in the morning and seeing Beth’s kids running. It has to start there. I love seeing the little kids at the rodeo complex whenever they have Wrestling Under the Lights — those things are cool.”

One thing in Socorro’s favor early on is playing four straight home games to start the season and the home open set against Miyamura on Aug. 22 (4 p.m.), a “double-header” against Silver City (3 p.m.) and Shiprock (7 p.m.) on Aug. 25, and 1 p.m. on Aug. 26 against Moriarty.

The Lady Warriors roster includes Jada Castillo, Trinity Apodoca, Aletycia Chavez, Natalia Sierra, Taylee Apodaca, Avery Timmons, Thalia Acosta, Marae Angel, Faith Lucero, Adelyn Marcum, Abrianna Romero, Karina Sierra, Alexis Chavez and Jazmine Alvarado.