New challenges await Farmington, Piedra Vista girls soccer this season

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — This upcoming girls soccer season for both Farmington and Piedra Vista high schools will feature some big changes.

Both the Scorpions and Panthers teams advanced to the postseason last spring after strong 8-3 runs competing against primarily local teams.

Travel restrictions due to coronavirus prevented the girls soccer programs from competing in district play last spring, months after the season was supposed to get underway.

With both teams set to begin their seasons on time and a return to action in a competitive District 2-5A, the challenges for both teams to get back to the postseason will be atop the list of hopeful accomplishments.

Bryce Frost, who is back for his second season as head coach for the Farmington girls soccer team, was impressed with how his squad overcame the many challenges of the abbreviated season.

"It was definitely a crazy season," Frost said. "We all did our best to keep them engaged and keeping them ready to play when we could. I was really proud of how hard all of them worked."

The Scorpions were eliminated in the Class 5A quarterfinals 9-0 to Albuquerque High, but that shutout loss wasn't indicative of how their season played out, according to Frost.

"I had no complaints with how hard they played and how well they all came together," Frost said. "There will be some big changes this season with the schedule but we're excited to see so many players come back for us heading into this season."

Among the key players Frost pointed out is freshman Jenna Elledge, who earned playing time on the varsity squad last season as an eighth-grader.

"(Elledge) is going to be a real key player for us," Frost said, while also acknowledging returning starters like Alaina Ulibarri and Makenzi Fitzsimmons.

"(Ulibarri) had a great season for us last year," Frost said. "We have a really great group of athletes and hopefully get them working together will result in great things."

The Scorpions will open the season Friday at 10 a.m. at the Tiger Sports Complex, where they will take part in the Tiger Shootout, opening the tournament by facing Bloomfield. 

"I think we're going to make a real good showing out there," Frost said of the tournament action. "Beyond that, I think this is a really tough district but we've got a really good bunch of players and I think we'll represent well."

Farmington's Jenna Elledge takes a shot at the net on Thursday, March 18, 2021, at Hutchison Stadium in Farmington.

The Panthers, who open their campaign on Thursday, Aug. 26, at Aztec, are coached by Shaun Taylor, who is returning for his third season. The Panthers, who also played a limited schedule, advanced to the postseason last spring but were upended by Rio Rancho in the quarterfinals by a score of 2-0.

Taylor was most impressed with the dedication of his players fighting through the many challenges caused by a limited season, and the way his team managed to pull together once they were on the field.

"Through the cancellations and the interim before the start of the season, they were so dedicated," Taylor said. "It really brought us together as a team and I think that had a big impact on our season."

Taylor will be replacing several graduating starters from last year's team, but is confident that the numbers of returning players as well as newcomers will fill in the gap.

"We have enough quality players to replace the starters we lost," Taylor said. "We've got nearly 20 players on the squad and each one of them are important to us."

Team co-captains Kassandra Funaro, Haley Notgrass as well as Brooklyn Silseth and Lauren Jacqua will be key to the success of the program this season, though Taylor was quick to emphasize that the team format will be most important going forward.

"No one player is more important than the next," Taylor said. "These kids have really bought into that and I think they have a great time with the team-first concept."

Now with district play set to resume again, the Scorpions and Panthers will be competing with the likes of West Mesa and Eldorado as well as the Sandia Matadors and La Cueva Bears.

The Eldorado Golden Eagles compiled a record of 3-2 last season, while Sandia finished with a record of 1-3-1. The West Mesa Mustangs put together a 2-3 campaign while La Cueva completed a 2-0-3 season.

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680