By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Formations set, and lineups close to it, the Enid High School soccer program had one more maneuver to learn in preparation for today’s season-opening doubleheader against Sand Springs: snow shoveling.
Well, snow brushing, anyway — using a shovel is a no-no on D. Bruce Selby’s artificial turf — but with only five home games on the team’s schedules, shifting the game to Sand Springs was a move coach Craig Liddell said the teams could ill afford.
So brush they did, clearing powder to preserve the twinbill doubling as Military Appreciation Night set to start with a 5:30 p.m. Pacers opener. On the same turf, both teams came close to playoff berths in 2012 — the Pacers within a district win, and the Plainsmen within seven minutes in a loser-out season finale loss (2-1) against visiting Bixby.
Already accustomed to rebuilding after losing 15 seniors from an 11-3 team in 2011, the Plainsmen’s returning talent includes a regionally recognized leader, a record-setting scorer and eight regulars from last season’s 6-7 team.
Center midfielder and team captain Edgar Delgadillo, the only underclassman starter for the Plainsmen during their 11-3 2011 season, is the team’s longest-tenured starting player.
Delgadillo was among 11 soccer players from Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s All-Region team, and was the only Oklahoman on the list.
“I think I have more pressure on my shoulders than back when I was a sophomore,” Delgadillo said.
The Plainsmen have 14 with varsity experience from last season’s team, including sophomore Felix Mora, who scored a team-record 11 goals as a freshman.
“I’ve just been going with the team, making sure I’m not slowing down,” More said. “I’ve got to get better and better and better every year.”
Along with Mora on the forward line of the Plainsmen’s aggressive 4-3-3 formation are seniors Yancarlos Duenas and Oscar Pena, who largely will be in charge of an offense that was shut out in five of the team’s seven losses.
“Guys have worked hard on (the offense), but a lot of it’s about confidence,” Liddell said. “So we’re looking to get off to a good start (tonight), get the ball in the net a couple of times.”
After a season’s hiatus from the playoffs in 2012, Liddell expects to return to the postseason in 2013, hopefully as a top-three finisher in 6A’s stalwart District 4, a field topped by national powers Union and Jenks as well as Enid, Bixby, Ponca City, Moore, Midwest City and Stillwater.
“They’re working hard, they’re looking good,” Liddell said. “They’ve learned a lot. It took lots of coaching in the offseason, but they’ve lapped it up. They’ve been very receptive and are very much a team. We preach that constantly, and this group are buying into it.”
The Pacers finished 5-8 after a 3-0 start last season, but after losing only two seniors in the offseason, they enter 2013 with 48 on the roster, the largest offering in Liddell’s 13-year tenure.
“We’ve got a good 12, 13 players who have gotten good, strong experience for at least a year,” said Liddell who recalled having only 25 girls when he joined the program. “A few of them with a couple of years.”
Among the Pacers’ unprecedented depth is junior forward Sophie Holle, who set a team single-season record with 11 goals as a freshman before injuries slowed her to five in 2012.
Holle scored two goals in in the Pacers’ second game last season, but was held scoreless until a hat trick against Midwest City in the team’s second-to-last match. Holle, who plays for three clubs throughout the year — the Pacers, the traveling Oklahoma Football Club and the state’s Olympic Developmental Club — expects to be healthy for her junior season, and has sidelined her own ambitions to score in favor of a better season finish for Enid in her first upperclassman season.
“If we stay together, I think we’re going to do so well, rather than just playing well individually,” she said. “Whenever we connect passes, it’s just pretty soccer … I like winning. I’m really competitive, but coming off our field with our heads high, that’s success for me.”
“She’ll do really well for us this year,” Liddell said. “Her challenge was ‘Be a team player, and you’ll be a star. You don’t have to try to carry the team. Play for the team, do the little things, fight hard, and everything else that you bring in athleticism and an eye for the goal.’ I think she’ll have a really good year as a junior.”
Holle played a Feb. 23 alumni exhibition on a 4-3-3 forward line with sisters Shelley and Shannon Mueller, a trio she said worked well.
“It was just beautiful,” “I’m really excited. We just connected well instead of just kicking the ball around the field. It’s just different soccer now. It’s pretty.”
Among the team’s rare new starters will be in goal, a competition currently between sophomore Eva Trostle, who has a slight leg up against junior Grace Enmeier, who missed most of the team’s preseason training playing basketball.
“The goalkeeper we had last year, Brooke Siler, she was a major leader and was a great part of the program,” Liddell said. “We’ll certainly miss Brooke. She kept us in a lot of games, but in the same breath, nine of the other 10 positions are filled by girls who are coming back.”
Senior center back Claudia Huerta, who already has signed to play soccer with NOC Tonkawa next season, and junior defensive partner Sarah Blakley will mind the pitch nearest Trostle or Enmeier on the last line of a Pacer defense that surrendered only 1.69 goals per game last season.
“The two of them playing as center backs together really form the basis of our team,” Liddell said. “That will give (a new goalie) a lot of protection, give her confidence.” Ԏ