Girls running on all cylinders under new coach DeLeon
Playing in a 4A regional girls’ soccer tournament championship and state semifinal won’t carry any weight for South Tahoe seniors Ali Palacios, Marisol Lizaola and Natalie Flynn in 2010.
Gone is last year’s head coach Clint Lockhart and in his place in Chris DeLeon, who formerly directed the school’s boys’ team to a state championship.
Veteran players are uncertain about their roles on the team given that a new coach in charge and a talented class of younger players is pushing for immediate playing time.
“We all thought Hugo (Lizaola) was going to be the coach, so a lot of us thought we had it in the bag,” Palacios said. “Now we have to impress a new coach, and we get really nervous.”
Conditioning shouldn’t be an issue for the Vikings in their 80-minute games and the longer ones that play out in the postseason.
“We run a lot, we do a lot of drills and every girl here is going to be in top condition for sure,” Flynn said. “It’s a different coaching and different style, but so far so good.”
After leading the boys’ program for seven years DeLeon decided it was time to strengthen his coaching resume for the future.
“Toward the end of last year when the new schedule came out for the 3A I approached Clint to see if he’d like some help, and that’s when he told me he was leaving,” DeLeon said. “I wanted to diversify my resume. I’ve always been looking to coach in college, and I just wanted to have a good resume.
“Hopefully we can have some success with the women’s program also.”
The vocal DeLeon has made each player aware that there are consequences for their mistakes. A missed penalty kick cost each player as much as 20 pushups during Tuesday’s afternoon practice.
“He kind of scared us because the guys would tell us and we’d watch them practice, and they’d run forever,” said Palacios, who prepared for the changes by attending all of DeLeon’s voluntary summer practices and by running on her own.
In his short sting as coach, DeLeon has impressed by the team’s core players and underclassmen.
“These girls have been coached very well with fundamentals, so we can focus on our conditioning and our game plan,” DeLeon said. “Having (so) many girls try out doesn’t make it easy on me picking teams.”
DeLeon is no stranger to coaching girls. He has coached them privately and help other coaches with their girls’ teams.
“A lot of the drills and coaching theories are exactly the same. There is no reason to switch coaching from boys to girls,” DeLeon said. “The difference of coaching boys to girls is not when it comes to the game of soccer; it’s more a psychological aspect of how to coach boys and girls.”
With Douglas and Carson no longer blocking their path to the postseason, the Vikings can shoot for lofty goals in 2010.
“Losing to Douglas in the championship game is a big motivational push for us, especially since we’re not playing those teams,” said Flynn, who made the winning penalty kick in last year’s regional quarterfinal victory over Reed. “It’s definitely a push to make it to state again.”
Palacios will miss those competitive rivalries.
“I’m not excited. I know some of their teams are strong, but playing Carson and Douglas it goes much stronger,” she said. “I know going into 3A a lot of us are going to think we have it, but we’re probably going to get surprised.”
DeLeon is wary of his new opponents, causing him to take a reserved stance on the upcoming season.
“The girls have been working really hard,” he said. “I’m not as familiar with the 3A girls’ programs. Truckee is always good, as are North Tahoe and Incline. We’ll just see how it goes.”
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