Defending GVC champ Lady Coyotes eye new identity for 2018 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Defending GVC champ Lady Coyotes eye new identity for 2018

Bill Rozak | brozak@tahoedailytribune.com

The Lake Tahoe Community College women's soccer team set the benchmark last year for all Coyote teams that follow.

LTCC enjoyed an historic season setting program records in almost every category. They won their first league title by winning all 12 games, outscored opponents 100-12 and league opponents 82-1, recorded the most wins and highest win percentage (17-3-3), allowed the least amount of goals in conference history, earned their first playoff berth and scored the most goals in the program's four-year history.

The past success overflowed this year into the school's highest national ranking. The Lady Coyotes are ranked No. 7 in the United Soccer Coaches Junior College Division III Preseason Top 20 poll.

"That's certainly a nice pat on the back to get a preseason ranking," said fourth-year head coach Jeremy Evans. "I saw it and kinda chuckled. Yeah, I think we're gonna be good, but that ranking is a reflection on what last year's team did. I certainly think this year's team could be better, but last year's team was last year's team. This is a blank slate. This is a new team with 17 new girls and about nine returners. We need to create our own identity. And really, the only ranking that matters is the final one."

The Coyotes 2017 season ended in the second round of the Northern California regional playoffs with a 1-0 loss to Santa Rosa, a team they beat 3-2 early in the season.

While ending the season with a loss is always sour, Golden Valley Conference most valuable player Madison Boyd said it didn't take away from what that team accomplished.

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"I was upset with how we finished, but at the same time I was very proud of how far we came," said the sophomore center back, who Evans calls the best he saw at the position last year. "We were the team that wasn't supposed to make it and I couldn't have been more proud, but this year it's new and we have new players and I hope we make it as far or even further."

Boyd leads a stacked group that Evans describes as "the most talent and depth we've ever had."

Evans started naming off girls who will likely make a big impact this year, and wanted to mention his whole team.

"There's just so many girls," he said.

This list starts with Boyd, a Las Vegas native, and moves to returning all-conference goalie Claudia Janese from South Lake Tahoe. The keeper had 17 clean sheets and .33 goals against per game average, both were top five in the state.

Also returning is second team all conference sophomore Graciela Palencia, from Reno. Evans said Palencia should have easily been on the first team. She scored 11 goals and had 12 assists making her the second leading point scorer on the team.

The Coyotes are also gaining a NCAA division I transfer, Valerie Sue Meyer, who redshirted last year at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California. Evans calls it a "major luxury" to nab her for at least a year.

Meyer, a Carson City native, wasn't getting to play as much as she'd hoped and decided to go a different route. That decision took her back to Evans, who had coached her some in high school. She plans to play for LTCC for a year and earn another scholarship to a four-year university.

"By the time I decided to transfer, it was a little late to get a scholarship, so I came back here to get recruited and go somewhere else," Meyer said. "I really like him (Evans) as a coach. He has a great coaching style for me. Also, the program was super successful and it's close so I can live at home and commute."

Coming from a D1 program, Meyer likes the intensity and dedication she has seen from her new teammates.

"During conditioning, it's really hard and nobody was complaining, they are just accepting of what we have to do," Meyer said. "With the hyper dedication I've seen so far, and the returners being as intense as they are motivating the team, there is a super good atmosphere."

Evans continued to list players like freshman Izzy Warren, a goalie he expects to push Janese. Evans said sophomore Sydney Woodward and freshman Cheyenne Banks are looking good on the back line.

He's also excited to see Angie Hurtado work in the central midfield. He says she might be the most creative player he's had in the program.

"The game looks very effortless to her because she is very confident," Evans said. "She gives us a dynamic ability to be a playmaker but she can score goals with both feet. She can do things in tight spaces, something we haven't had. I look for her to have a big impact. The reality is we'll have six to seven new starters. We have pieces we didn't have last year. We have this blend of athleticism, size and creative players that we didn't have. We had a little, now we have a lot and there is a ton of competition."

The Coyotes start their season at 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, at the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational in Walnut, California. They will play their home opener at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5, against Cosumnes River. And they will begin defense of their conference title at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, against Shasta College in South Lake Tahoe.

"I want this group to have expectations," Evans said. "It's different being the hunted. Last year we were the hunters and came out of nowhere. Now we're getting everybody's best shot. We have to defend our conference title. That's our immediate goal. Then it's to make a deeper run in the playoffs, and once you're there, let's win a few games. This team should at least get as far as last year. If we don't defend our conference title that could mean a good thing, because there's another great team in the conference."

"This is a good team. We are going in strong and I think we can go far if we keep doing what we're doing and come together as not only a team, but as a family," Boyd said. "Once we do that and get our stuff together we're gonna be great this season."