Minus star goal scorer, Bradshaw Mountain girls soccer must spread the wealth
Prep Girls Soccer
The returning players on Bradshaw Mountain’s girls soccer team admit that they relied too heavily on star attacker Hailey Denman to produce goals during the 2018-2019 season.
Denman, a fleet-footed sophomore last winter, scored an astounding 32 goals for the Bears, or roughly 58 percent of the squad’s total. In fact, no other player tallied more than seven goals.
Bradshaw Mountain finished the campaign with a 9-7 record, but lost five of its last six matches, including a 1-0 setback at Estrella Foothills in the 4A state play-in round Feb. 7 in Goodyear. It was the Bears’ second straight exit in the play-in round.
However, Denman, who played a significant role in leading the Bears within a victory of qualifying for the state playoffs, won’t be suiting up for the Bears in 2019-2020. Instead, she’ll be focusing on her Club ball career, and that means big changes for the Bears.
Bradshaw Mountain kicks off the season at 5 p.m. today, Dec. 3, when it plays host to Arcadia at Bob Pavlich Field in Prescott Valley.
“We’ve got to find other girls that can score,” Bradshaw Mountain coach John Sterling said. “She [Denman] papered over a lot of the cracks, and we have to step up to the plate. In the games early in the season, we have to work to figure it out. We have the players to do it.”
Bradshaw Mountain senior center-back defender Sarah Hacker said losing the team’s best scorer might not be all bad, even if there are early offensive struggles.
The Bears have a considerably younger roster now, too. Of the 15 players on the team, four are seniors, two are juniors, seven are sophomores and two are freshmen.
Freshman left back Aurora Corona and sophomore halfback Abby Platt should join Hacker on defense.
“Part of me likes that we’re new; we have no bad habits as a team,” Hacker said. “We can learn new objectives and start fresh. We can teach the girls the right way to play soccer.”
Bradshaw Mountain has “a good mix,” Hacker added. A major piece in that mix is senior midfielder Alexis Clynes, who was the Bears’ second-leading scorer last season. She registered seven goals from her position on the right side.
“She’s massive for us,” Sterling said of Clynes.
Clynes said losing Denman changes the team’s dynamics, though.
“We all have to work together, string passes together, and defensively to offensively, shift through the play,” she added. “We can’t rely on one or two people to work the ball.”
Sophomore midfielder Bria Coleman and freshman midfielder Bethany Gittins are other potential goal scorers.
“She can play,” Sterling said of Gittins. “She’ll have a big hill to climb, but she’ll learn fast. They’re both quality players. It’ll be a learning year for the both of them.”
For girls soccer, the Bears are arguably in one of the toughest regions in 4A, the Grand Canyon.
Last season, six of the region’s seven squads reached the postseason, including automatic state qualifiers Flagstaff and Prescott, each of which lost in the quarterfinals.
Bradshaw Mountain compiled a 2-4 region record, but the quality of its competition helped boost the Bears’ power-point ranking.
“We can finish in the middle [of the region standings] again,” Sterling said.
Added Clynes, “I think we’ll be at the play-in round again. None of us thought that we would last year. We have a lot of strong freshmen and sophomores.”
Doug Cook is a reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.