By DIEGO LOZANO III
With the majority of Pima Community College women’s soccer team entering as newcomers, coach Kendra Veliz will look to her returning core of sophomores to guide the young squad through new waters.
“We have eight returners and they’re pretty good ladies, I’ll say,” a smiling Veliz said.
Working 10-plus freshmen into the squad requires an adjustment period, Veliz said.
“They come in from all different high schools, so you need some time to get the cohesion and chemistry for the team,” she said. “But they’re working pretty hard and that’s the start of it.”
This year, Pima will play its home soccer games at the North Grandstand in the Kino Memorial Veterans Stadium complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way.
On Aug. 30, the Aztecs left Phoenix with a 5-0 shutout victory over South Mountain Community College to even their record at 2-2 including conference play.
PCC dominated the ball from the opening whistle as Veliz’s squad finished with 16 shots at the net while restricting the Cougars to just two attempts.
Sophomore forward Gisel Duarte led the rally with a first half hat-trick, which broke the game wide open and accounted for three of Pima’s four goals in the opening period.
Freshmen Larissa Adams and Lexxi Hanabergh also scored. Freshman goalkeeper Shelby Penrod recorded two saves.
The women found chemistry and cohesion as sophomore Katie Harayda successfully set up teammates with three assists.
Pima lost a bruising home game Aug. 29 against Cochise College. After a scoreless first half, Cochise broke through in the 72nd minute to seal a 1-0 victory.
Despite taking twice as many shots on goal, Pima didn’t catch any breaks.
Veliz complimented her team’s hustle and gritty performance after the loss.
“I honestly think they’re good, hard-working kids,” she said. “What it’s going to take is discipline and work, and we have a lot to learn still.”
The women kicked off their home opener Aug. 24 with a 1-0 win against Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
Freshman Angelica Gonzalez was deemed ACCAC Goalie of the Week for her resilience in guarding the net. She recorded one save.
Pima scored during a sophomore-to-freshman sequence. Vanessa Moraida set up a cross pass to Rachel Ridlinghafer for a goal in the 66th minute of play.
The Aztecs opened the season with a 3-2 loss on Aug. 22, traveling into foreign territory to take on Glendale Community College in Phoenix.
Freshmen Nikki Reed and Jess Ann Robison struck net in the 30th and 42nd minutes respectively to knot the score at 2-2 during the first half. The Aztecs gave up a goal in the second half.
As growing pains fade, Veliz believes her squad is capable of performing to expectations.
“There’s a little bit of the learning curve we’re still working on,” she said.
Veliz also stressed the significance of Pima’s extensive season.
“Every game counts, every game is important,” she said.
Sept. 7: Gateway CC, Kino North, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 10: Paradise Valley CC, Kino North, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 12: @ Phoenix College, Phoenix, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 14: Arizona Western College, Kino North, 4:30 p.m.