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Unity key to Colts soccer team

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As is the case every year, the Colt soccer team is set to start their season with only a few practices under their belt. But that doesn’t mean coach John Barbour and new assistant Dewayne Roberts aren’t looking forward to getting started.

“We’re just excited,” Barbour said. “We want to see how we are with everybody else. We know communication is going to be a downside and our conditioning, but we’ll get there. I think by the time district starts we’ll be ready to go and hopefully even before that. We’re going to do what we can to compete with everybody and hopefully pick up some victories.”
This year’s crop of Colts —which numbers about 35-40 players, with less than a dozen returners — was initially slated to start the season on Tuesday against 5A Goddard. However, that match has been pushed back to Thursday, Sept. 21. Instead, Barbour and his Colts will get a few more precious practice sessions before hosting 4A rival Socorro this coming Saturday, Aug. 26. at 3:00 P.M.
But for most of the pre-district season, the Colts will be playing up, against 5A and 6A teams – and Barbour said that’s OK.
“What’s the point of holding back? There’s no reason to just play defensive. If you’re going to go for it, you’ve got to go for it. We’re looking for a good game. We go to their place, so it won’t be easy, but I think they’ve got some young guys as well, so we’ll hope for the best. “
With less than three week’s practice before that road opener, Barbour said his squad is mostly working on the fundamentals, including first touch, passing and conditioning, but also just getting to know each other.
“We’ve got to be getting better at communicating, because that’s always a problem. Most of the kids at the other schools have grown up together, but these guys have known each other for about 10 days. If they can at least know each other’s names, I’ll be happy with that. If I can get to know their names, I’ll be happy,” he laughed. “But it’s just communicating; getting their skills back, because a lot of them probably haven’t played during the summer; shaking the cobwebs off but also getting into match fitness and getting conditioned.”
With the team just learning who everyone is and what they can do, the coach is still figuring out who will play where. One of the names that stood out last year and should again this year is Martin Ahumada, the senior cousin of NMMI’s recording-setting scorer, Everardo Ahumada.

“Good defender. Very quick,” Barbour said of the fullback. “He may actually move up front so he may beat his cousin’s record. We’ll see.”
The keeper position is always key, and this year the Colts are looking at two possibilities, starting with senior Juan Bellot Burke.
“He’s got great hands,” the coach said. “He hasn’t played for a long time, so we’re having to kind of work that out, but we’ve also got a freshman, Allen Varela, who’s looking really promising. Varela’s communication with the back four is really, really good. Those two aree going to have to battle it out a little bit, and we’ll see who ends up at that spot.”
This season, there are also four Lady Colts on the squad — Frida Antopia, Miranda Garcia, Frida Ruizesparza, and Samantha Steadman — with Antopia likely getting some playing time on the varsity squad.
“They want to play,” Barbour said. “So we’re going to give them that opportunity and I would imagine at least two of them on the JV side will probably be starting, but we’ll have to wait and see how that all plays out. There’s a lot of guys and gals who are vying for those starting positions, and that’s going to depend on effort, attendance, ability, and all that.”
Whoever sees time on the field will be seeing tough competition. Besides Goddard, the Colts will square off against 5A Roswell, Artesia and Lovington; 6A Clovis; and a mix of 5A and 6A schools at the Coyote Classic Sept. 1-2. But Barbour wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a good test,” he said. “If you can play with the 5A and 6As, then it gives you kind of a good start when you’re going into the 3As and 4As and you feel like you’ve really got a chance against them. It’s tough competition, but you’re not going to get better if you don’t test yourself.”
And the Colts will need to be prepped when they open district Sept. 16.
“Hope Christian is definitely the front runner,” Barbour said. “But Moriarty’s no slouch. I think we split with them (last year.) Portales, always a good competition between us. You never know who’s going to win between our two teams. And then Ruidoso. They were very young last year so those kids are going to be a little older so I expect they’re going to be a little bit tougher.”
For the first time in four years, the Colts didn’t advance to the postseason last year, but it was close, just missing out on an at-large pick from the seeding committee, which easily could have happened, considering how close the win/loss records were for the lower-seeded teams.
“You hope for a helpful bid at times and sometimes you get unlucky as well,” Barbour said. “We’ll just take it as it comes and hopefully this year it’ll be a no brainer and we’ll win district and we’ll be able to go.”
And while the group is still getting to know each other — including coach Roberts, who’s an Eastern New Mexico grad with a solid background in soccer — Barbour said the team spirit is strong.
“They’ve kind of gelled quickly, more so than most teams I’ve had in the past. They seem a little closer. We’ll just have to wait and see how that plays out, but right now the spirits are high and they all seem to get along, despite the majority of them being new.”

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