FARMINGTON — The Kirtland Central, Bloomfield and Navajo Prep girls soccer teams are all looking to turn things around in 2015 and climb the ladder of District 1-A/4A.
On the heels of two consecutive subpar seasons, KCHS will enter the season with Chad Kimball taking charge of the program after spending the past four seasons as an assistant.
This year's version of the Lady Broncos — who finished 7-13-1, 5-7 District 1-A/4A in 2014 — will boast eight seniors. There's also an influx of young talent that Kimball said he's excited about.
"We have a sophomore in Christine Young and a senior, Kayce Culler, who worked together really well as forwards last year, and I do like what I'm seeing out of them," Kimball said. "Then I also have this eighth-grader (Jayden Guillory), who's a really good athlete. She could take one of those forward spots."
Kimball said he likes the competition for the forward spot because it forces the girls to work harder for their playing time.
Megan Silversmith and Phyllis Kitseallyboy, a pair of seniors, will be relied on to anchor Kirtland Central's back line on defense.
Freshman Megan Munoz figures to be the goalkeeper for KCHS when it opens its season against Los Lunas at the Lady Tiger Shootout in Aztec Friday afternoon. Though very young, Kimball has already had a taste of varsity action.
"She did get several starts for us last year as an eighth-grader," Kimball said of Munoz. "She's got some varsity experience, she's been working really hard this summer and she's got really good hands."
Kimball said he doesn't have too many strategic changes in mind for KCHS as he incorporates some of his own ideology into Camacho's game plan.
"One thing I want is for us to be scrappy; fighting for every ball," he said. "I want to focus on possession movement off the ball because that's something we've lacked in previous years. Really, I just want to see a never-give-up attitude."
Shannon Nygren, a Bloomfield graduate and former assistant coach, will make her way to the sidelines for the Lady Bobcats as their new head coach.
Nygren will be tasked with rebuilding a team that has finished with a losing record in each of the past five seasons.
"I don't know too much about what happened in the past couple years," Nygren said. "I told them that my philosophy is not looking back; we're not going to discuss last year's problems because that doesn't change anything."
The Lady Bobcats went 7-15 overall and 4-9 in the district in 2014.
Nygren believes a trio of juniors — Teegan Mosley, Bryanna Parish and Kara Watchman — will help spearhead a turnaround this year.
"Kara's going to be great, she's a very, very solid keeper," Nygren said of her starting goalkeeper.
Parish is a midfielder, while Mosley plays forward. Another forward who Nygren thinks will contribute this year — if she can stay healthy — is sophomore Kenzie Masaro.
Nygren said she's had more than 30 girls show up to practice this summer in hopes of making the team, and she'll place an importance on commitment and hard work this year.
"I want the girls to know that hard work pays off," she said. "My whole philosophy is not everyone deserves a ribbon if ribbons are earned. So the girls will earn them, and they will earn their playing time or they won't get it. And the girls know that; they've learned that."
Bloomfield will begin its season at the Lady Tiger Shootout, taking on St. Pius X at 10 a.m. Friday.
With only two wins in the last two seasons, it's back to the drawing board for fifth-year Navajo Prep head coach Stacy Irwin.
The Lady Eagles join KCHS and Bloomfield in one of the best districts in the state, with Hope Christian, Bosque and Sandia Prep rounding out the district.
Prep finished 2014 with an overall record of 1-17-1 and went 0-12 in district play.
This season, Irwin plans to rebuild each unit of his team.
"We need to totally rebuild our defense and fix our midfield," Irwin said. "Midfield has been a problem since after my second year."
Five Lady Eagle defenders graduated last spring, which is why finding a formidable defensive back line is one of Irwin's primary concerns.
Sophomore defenders Nichelle Silversmith, Alexandria Juan and Dayna Littledog built a solid rapport with one another last year, according to Irwin, and he's hoping they can build on that.
Offensively, Geena Tsosie and Sunny Nez will play a lot of forward for Prep in 2015.
In net will be freshman Naakii Brown.
"The future looks real, real promising for Naakii," Irwin said. "She plays older than she is."
When competing against powerhouse programs like Hope Christian and Bosque this year, Irwin said his approach as a coach will be to remind his players to view the games as learning experiences.
"Basically, I'll tell them to study and learn," he said. "I hope these girls can learn from their mistakes and learn from the kind of teamwork those teams are going to show this season."
Prep opens its season Friday, playing the Aztec junior varsity team at the Lady Tiger Shootout in Aztec.