Kirtland Central soccer teams face different challenges in upcoming seasons

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

KIRTLAND − The Kirtland Central High School soccer teams will each be looking to some familiar faces in order to get back into the state tournament this fall.

But both teams will also be facing their own set of challenges, not the least of which is a highly competitive district schedule.

Here's a preseason glance at both the Kirtland Central Broncos boys and girls soccer squads.

Girls Soccer

Replacing one of the state's leading scorers and being a first-year head coach are just a few of the things Kiera Smith has dealt with since taking over earlier this year as Kirtland Central's girls soccer coach.

Smith, who took over the position after Eric Hooper stepped down at the conclusion of last season, is tasked with not only the mundane chores of the job, but also trying to find a goal scorer as productive as Marissa Henry was last season.

Henry, who ranked among the top 20 scorers in the state last year with 26 goals, graduated earlier this summer and leaves a void on the roster this upcoming season, which starts on Friday, Aug. 19 against Los Lunas.

Smith, who has served as an assistant coach at both Kirtland Central and Piedra Vista, will turn to seniors Jessina Garcia and Sydney Smith to pick up the scoring duties this season.

"I'm hoping with their leadership, and the youth on the team with some new players, that we'll be able to fill that gap," Smith said. "It's not going to be easy. (Henry) is a girl that I've coached for several years and that's a tough loss but we'll do our best."

Sydney Smith scored six times last season and had 12 assists, just two shy of the leader in assists on the team in Garcia, who added in 18 goals for the Broncos who finished the campaign with a record of 10-7-2.

The Lady Broncos missed out on a golden opportunity to win District 1-4A last season, dropping the final two matches, a 6-3 loss to Bloomfield and a 3-0 decision against Aztec. Those two losses put their district record at 4-3-1 and just missing the Class 4A state tournament.

"The girls are excited to get back out there because we had such a good start to last season, but I don't think they expected the competition to be as good as it was as the season wore on," Smith said. "I think they're ready to play in the district again."

Also expected to contribute for the Lady Broncos this season will be Kylie and Whitney Haws, who combined to score six goals last season.

"(Kylie) is going to be our dominant defender this season," Smith said. "She's a real quiet leader and I don't think she realizes how valuable she is. (Whitney) is a great midfielder and we just need to get her more confident in her shooting."

Kirtland Central's Jessina Garcia (3) chases down a pass while fending off tacklers from Aztec during a girls soccer match, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021 at Bill Cawood Field.

The top three teams in District 1-4A, Aztec, Bloomfield and Kirtland Central, all finished within two games of each other at the end of the district campaign. Smith is expecting this season to be no different.

"It will be tough once again to compete," Smith said. "I'm hoping we can get off to a good start to the season and really build more on that momentum."

Getting the team onto the field will provide Smith with a chance to briefly escape the day-to-day operations of running a high school sports program, something that she admits has been overwhelming at times.

"The thing I don't like being is the one who calls the shots," Smith joked. "It's the administrative part of it that I didn't realize there was so much of."

For more information on the Kirtland Central girls soccer team, check out their official team page on MaxPreps.com.

Boys Soccer

Senior Kyler Joe, coming off a 20-goal season last year for the Broncos, will be looking for a little help this upcoming season.

Joe scored nearly half of the team's 50 goals last season as the Broncos stumbled a bit at the start of the season, losing seven of their first 10 games.

To that end, head coach Leonel Camacho is hoping to get a lot more productivity from a few key returnees to the boys soccer team.

"Everyone's a year older and a little more experienced this time around, so we'll look to get better," Camacho said.

The task will not be easy, especially against stubborn competition in District 1-4A in which four of the five teams won seven or more games last season.

"Miyamura and Bloomfield and Aztec, they're not going to sit by idly and let us do it, so we have to take the initiative," Camacho said.

Kirtland Central's Easton Warner controls a pass and prepares to head down the field during a boys soccer match against Gallup, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 at Bill Cawood Field.

Freshman Brandon Lacey and junior Saul Garcia will be looked upon to provide some additional leadership and goal scoring for the Broncos when their season opens Friday, Aug. 19 against Bosque.

"(Garcia) and (Joe) are really going to be the heart of this team on the field and I'm confident they'll step up for us," Camacho said. "(Lacey) was really a pleasant surprise for us last year and I see a couple of these guys being effective this season."

Also expected to be a key performer for the Broncos will be junior Easton Warner, who scored four goals for the Broncos last season.

"I can use him in a number of different positions on the field, and I can see him being a solid all-around player for us this season," Camacho said.

For more information on the Kirtland Central boys soccer team, check out their official webpage at MaxPreps.com.