Freedom Newspapers: Karl Terry ENMU freshman Sara Torres works on ball control during a drill in the Zias’ practice session on Tuesday morning.
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — The Eastern New Mexico University women’s soccer team will take on a bit of a different look this fall.
Four players who were original members of the squad in 2003 have graduated, including all-time leading scorer Megan Dozier. The Zias enter the season not knowing where their goals are going to come from.
“We’re going to have to rely on defense probably a little more this year than we have in the past,” said coach Travis McCorkle, who has been with the program since its inception. “Offense will be more of a shared responsibility this year, but in many ways that may make us more dangerous.”
The Zias open an 18-match schedule this week with a trip to Durango, Colo., facing host Fort Lewis on Thursday and Montana State-Billings on Saturday.
McCorkle noted that the Zias have four seniors and two juniors who represent a lot of the team’s experience. The rest of the squad is made up of freshmen and sophomores.
Dozier’s sister, Hannah, is a freshman forward and will try to pick up some of the scoring slack for her sister, along with junior forward Hillary Gintowt and sophomore forward Samantha Lawrence.
Defensively, senior goalkeeper Stephanie Lawrence is in her third year as a regular while defenders who return include seniors Katharine Coulombe and Marcela Garcia and junior Megan Wonner.
The Zias went 9-9-2 last year, including 4-4-1 in the Lone Star Conference, and earned a spot in the conference tournament for the first time.
“I’m more excited about this year,” said Coulombe, a four-year starter from the Seattle area. “Our freshman class is very strong, and they understand how hard they need to work to get the result we need.”
McCorkle said the preseason poll, which had his team pegged for sixth in an 11-team league with the addition of Abilene Christian, means relatively little. He’s optimistic the Zias can continue their steady progress.
The key is finding enough offense.
“I would hope we’d do a little better (than sixth),” he said. “But we’re either going to have to have (Hannah Dozier, Gintowt and Lawrence) score more, or have somebody who just steps up.”
Coulombe knows the challenge won’t be easy.
“We have to come with our ‘A’ game, and that’s what we’ll do,” she said. “I think we have the potential this year to go a lot farther.”