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GHS girls soccer goes from hunter to hunted

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The Goddard Rocket girls soccer team cheer on the football team last season at the Wool Bowl. (J.T. Keith File Photo)

Goddard’s sports revitalization began in the fall of 2017 with the football team. The team went to the playoffs and had a winning record for the first time in football in coach Chris White’s three seasons, going 9-2-1.

The Goddard girls soccer team practices earlier this summer. (J.T. Keith Photo)

Boys soccer went 10-9 and 4-2 in the district, making the playoffs before losing to Los Alamos. The girls’ volleyball team was five points away from winning a state title in coach Dewayne Roberts’ first year on the sideline.

One of the untold stories that are often overlooked in Goddard sports lore is the story of how veteran girls’ soccer coach, Jamie Martinez adjusts his thoughts and attitude. He did some soul searching and humbled himself to learn new things about the game and himself as a coach. For the last four years, he had won the district title, but in 2017, his young girls were just that: young girls competing against young women that were three years older and stronger than them. Those teams were in better shape as well.

Jamie knew that something had to change and losing was unacceptable to him or to his soccer program. The offseason began with an introspective look at how he could get his team better in a hurry.

He decided to put his young team through the paces and challenged each girl to get better in practice, and in the offseason conditioning. Not only did he throw down the gauntlet to his team, but he scheduled them for the toughest seven-game stretch he could find in the middle of the season, so he could see what his young team was made of.

Jamie wanted them to be ready for the district and have a shot at state. He really didn’t know who he had coming back and what kind of team he would be able to form once the season began.

Teams took their turn beating up on the young girls Goddard soccer team in 2017. The team was young, didn’t have very many playmakers, nor were they in condition to play an entire game. In years past, the girls knew what to do and how to make it happen. In 2017, the girls didn’t they didn’t know how to win the close games as they went, 4-14-2. Of the 14 games they lost, six games were by one goal and four games by two goals.

After an offseason and weight training, the team came roaring back to win their last six games in a row. The team went 5-0-1 in the district after starting 6-8, while losing to some quality teams during the roughest part of the season. Jamie was imbued with enough confidence to know that after winning a playoff game at home against Grants, 1-0, that he and his young team wanted more.

Jamie has the team believing in themselves, he told them much after taking each starter out last year in a 5-0 playoff loss to St. Pius X. He stood there with a towel draped on his shoulder and allowed each girl her moment and stuck out his hand to give them five as they walked off the field with their heads down and tears falling from their cheeks onto their Goddard jerseys.

After the game, Jamie consoled them and told them in his direct way, that there was nothing to be ashamed of, that they just got beat by women. He told them that last year, some of them were eighth and ninth graders playing with kids their age. Now it’s different when they play against teams that want it and train to win state titles.

Jamie told the girls they had their opportunities, not many, but enough that against good teams they have to make the shots that will make the difference in the game. He also told the team to use this as a learning experience and to not be satisfied with getting to state, but that each girl had to willingly commit to the weight room and getting into the best shape possible or they could look forward to getting manhandled again by teams up north.

“I’m very happy with the girls this summer,” Jamie said. “We know that no one is going to take us lightly this season or overlook us. I told the girls they have to be ready every time we step on the field to play because we are going to get everyone’s best shot.”

This year, the Lady Rockets are not going to be sneaking up on anyone, with four all-state players back and eight all-district players back, they will go from underdog to prohibitive favorite in every game they play, even against teams from up north.

The Lady Rockets were lead in scoring by sophomore Alexis Hoover last season with 22 goals in 12 games played. She thinks that the team will be better because of their versatility. Her teammates can play multiple positions which will make it harder for opposing teams to key in on her and stop her from scoring.

“I went to a soccer camp in California,” Hoover said. “I worked on having a better touch on the ball and a better sense of the field and with my shot.”

Jamie says he expects the team to have the depth to be competitive this season, and that last year, the girls learned how to win the close games. He feels like the work his team did in the weight room will pay dividends in the latter half of the season after the excitement of the beginning of the season has worn off. He mentioned to nearly all of his players that he expects big things from them and would not single out any girl. He knows that he can solid play in the goalie from twins Sarah and Emily Mathison.

With five seniors on the team, Jamie must fight the feelings of going through this season with his senior and captain daughter, Julie Martinez. He has already had a daughter play for him and graduate, but this year could be really special as both try to win the Blue Trophy, something Jamie has never done as a soccer coach.

Goddard opens the 2019 season on the road at 5 p.m., against Ruidoso on next Friday.

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.