For Moffat County High School senior Tracy Mendoza, getting to the state soccer playoffs was a goal that took more time than the 90 minutes allotted for each match.
But, after four seasons with the Bulldogs, Mendoza was able to reach the playoffs with his team.
The MCHS boys varsity soccer team finished its season with the best record in the program’s 20-year history.
The team’s overall record of 11-5 is the best since 2004, when the Bulldogs finished 9-5-1. This season also included the team’s first playoff appearance since 2005.
“It was definitely a good season, getting to go the playoffs in my last year and everything,” Mendoza said. “I feel very accomplished. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
The team’s entry into the 4A division playoffs was short-lived, as the Bulldogs were eliminated in a first-round Oct. 27 game against Windsor. Mendoza scored the team’s only goal of the 4-1 loss, bringing his season goal count to 30.
“Just getting there and knowing what the playoffs is like felt pretty good,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza also led the team in assists, with 12 total. Sophomore Alan Flores had 10 assists and seven goals for the year.
“I was so glad to be able to get to the playoffs in my second year,” Flores said.
Mendoza said the team excelled this season because so many of the players had participated in the local men’s league and had gotten used to playing with each other. He added that MCHS coach Rusty Cox’s approach helped this year, too.
“He knows all of us and what we’re good at,” Mendoza said.
With his final year of high school soccer behind him, Mendoza said he is unsure how often he will be involved in the sport in coming years.
Although he is interested in playing for Mesa State College, he might take a year off to get a job and save money.
He said playing beyond the college level seems intimidating, too.
“Going pro would be great, but I don’t know,” he said. “It’s pretty hard.”
A different challenge lies in store for Flores.
With eight seniors leaving the team, Flores expects the Bulldogs’ playing techniques to shift next season.
“It’ll change how we play because almost all the seniors are our defense,” he said.
Starting goalie Dustin Carlson and Victor Villa are among the seniors who won’t be returning. Flores and sophomore Alex Perez will be two of the more experienced players left on the field.
“We just have to keep working hard and keep doing the best we can do,” Flores said.
Flores added that the team will be very different without Mendoza’s offensive prowess.
“He’s a great player,” Flores said of his teammate.