Aztec graduate led team in goals last season
FARMINGTON – Jessica Kresl has that scoring instinct in her.
The 2014 Aztec graduate scored 48 goals during her final three years with the Lady Tigers soccer team, but that version of herself initially was lost when she started her college athletic career at Western State Colorado University.
After she tallied just one goal in her first two seasons with the Mountaineers, Kresl's goal-scoring prowess is returning in time for her senior season, thanks to Western State's latest formation.
Previously playing in a defense-oriented formation on the outer wing, Kresl is now playing in a 4-2-3-1 system under coach Amy Bell — which is enabling her to be more free to attack from the outside.
"I wasn't (initially) in as much of a scoring opportunity position as I am now, and I'm really excited about our new formation," Kresl said. "Coach Bell wants us to be a high-pressure team. So just being further up the field and having numbers up will help a lot."
Kresl said she hopes she can become a greater scoring threat, similar to her time at Aztec, with the new system.
Bell said when she took over at Western State, an NCAA Division II school in Gunnison, Colo., Kresl relied primarily on her speed to help set up teammates.
"She didn't quite have that nose for goals. She was more of a possession player. It's a great quality to have, but we need those people who are able to penetrate that last line of defense and really lead in that attack," Bell said.
Then came the 2016 season, when Kresl led Western State with 44 shots and four goals, including two game winners.
"Last year, we were more on the attacking side. So I had more opportunities to shoot and get the ball up there," Kresl said.
Bell said Kresl caught some opponents off guard last season with her speed and ability to get by people.
"She's kind of an engine for our offense. When we need that spark or somebody who has the energy to get down the field and score goals, she's always been that person," Bell said. "I think it took a while for her to build that confidence to go ahead and take the shot. But now that she has it, she's not afraid to take someone on. She creates a lot of opportunities for us."
Kresl expects her goal total to increase this fall, as does Bell.
Kresl said she aims to score at least 10 goals in 2017. To do that, she looks to be more aggressive taking on defenders in one-on-one situations and charging deeper into the box that way.
"I should've shot more (last year) when I had the chance. During the summer, that was one of my things to work on, being more aggressive going toward the goal," Kresl said.
The Mountaineers open the new campaign 1 p.m. Thursday during a two-day tournament at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.
"I'm hoping this year that I am a scoring threat on our team," Kresl said.
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.