The Lady Rockets’ soccer season began with high expectations. The team returned many key players and five all-state selections from the year before. After a year away from the postseason in 2017, coach Jamie Martinez went to a grueling offseason conditioning program and a tougher schedule to help prepare his team for the opponents in Albuquerque.
In their first district game at home, the Lady Rockets had to pick themselves up off the soccer pitch and pull it together against a district rival, Artesia. The game was so physical, it was a mix between soccer, hockey and football.
Goddard fans were yelling at the referee, “That’s a play on. That’s a play on! What are you doing?” If it wasn’t for the captain Abbi Edwards’ goal with 10 minutes left in the game, Goddard would have their first district loss instead of settling for a 1-1 tie at Cielo Grande Soccer Complex on Saturday afternoon.
What has been so frustrating for coach Martinez is he has lost key players in practices and games. He has lost his daughter, Julie Martinez, and all-state forward and the team’s previous No. 1 goal scorer: Alexis Hoover. Hoover hurt herself playing basketball and has never been able to get healthy and compete at the level she did last season. Martinez had a player injured against Artesia on Saturday.
Martinez has done one of his best coaching jobs this season in the midst of the injuries and remains optimistic that the team will manage this and make a run. Goddard does not play another game until Thursday.
The injuries have affected how Martinez runs his practices, and the lineups he uses in games. He has had to move players to positions they’re not used to playing and it is working well enough to stave off defeat, and it works — except when it’s not working and his team is missing easy goals that normally would be pointing. On Saturday, during the final period and two overtimes, Goddard missed 10 dead aim shots on goal.
Martinez has, by sheer will, tried to impose his will on his team so they don’t let injuries become an excuse to lose. Martinez is trying to teach his still-young team that it’s not OK to lose, even when things are not going their way in the game, practice or life.
Martinez knows that this, too, shall pass, and he’s trying to teach his team to focus on now and go through the now with a positive attitude. His message to the team is to do the work and the results will take care of itself. For Martinez, that’s not just soccer, but life.
Martinez knows that the only way to come out of this is to play one game at a time. The one constant that has kept the Lady Rockets in games is their defense and goalkeeping have been first-rate. Emily Mathison has been a mainstay in the net, knocking shots away and saving at least five in the two overtimes. The rest of the defense has done nothing but hustle and crowd players while taking the ball away and limiting shots on goal.
Goddard has a busy week this week. In essence, if they can heal up and right the ship, they have a chance to win district again.
“We just have to keep playing tough,” Martinez said. “We’re going to be all right, we have to heal up and things will work out. I’m proud of my team.
Goddard travels to Portales on Thursday for a 3 p.m. match.