Moffat County girls soccer seeks to snap cold streak |

Moffat County girls soccer seeks to snap cold streak

Members of the Moffat County girls soccer team move the ball forward during a 2022 game with Rifle. Head coach Chelsea Suazo said she has a blend of first-timers and returning players, and hopes the more experienced players will be ready for the transition from indoor to outdoor practice.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

With snow blanketing the Moffat County soccer field, athletes have already faced an early setback to start the spring season.

Yet, the Bulldogs are raring to get things going and play to the potential they know they have. The girls soccer program has gotten the ball rolling with indoor practice sessions since earlier this month.

For head coach Chelsea Suazo, the upside of these practices has been plenty of energy and enthusiasm from the two dozen girls on the roster. The downside is knowing that once they are outdoors, conditions will be considerably trickier.

“Indoor ball is so much different than outdoors, so we keep reminding them that they need to keep in that physical shape,” she said. “Inside, it’s faster-paced and just a lot different. A lot of our girls are new, so we’ll need to train them differently once we’re outside. The ball moves differently, bounces differently, just every single aspect is different.”

Suazo said she has a blend of first-timers and returning players, and hopefully those who are more experienced will be ready for the eventual transition.

“We have a lot of girls who have come back year after year and we remind them to spread out since it will be a lot wider outside,” she said. “Then there’s positioning, so we’re trying to work on that, but they just can’t see that same space. Inside, there’s a lot of clumpiness that we don’t want to teach, and we have to get out of that rut every time.”

This spring marks Suazo’s third year as head coach. In the past two seasons, the Bulldogs have struggled to get a varsity win with a lineup that fluctuates greatly. For instance, a team of 30 last year quickly dropped in numbers as the season continued.

“We started pretty strong last year, but we had some injuries and kids who were ineligible, but we were able to do varsity and JV games,” Suazo said.

MoCo players stayed competitive with wins over other teams’ junior varsity squads, though athletes swiftly burned through their energy.

“It kills the girls who were trying to do double time,” Suazo said. “That JV level is where we can get that boost of confidence.”

Suazo will likely conserve players for varsity games only this season.

Scheduling may be rough. Although several home games are on the docket in the coming weeks, that could change. The Bulldogs are the only team in the 3A Western Slope League that has not yet had a game.

With four of the eight league teams making it to the playoffs last season, Suazo is expecting it to be competitive as ever.

“I keep telling them they play some of the best teams in the state and girls who have maybe never touched a ball or only played two or three years of their life — the dynamic is just different,” she said.

MoCo soccer has two seniors this season with Jessica Palacios and Stephanie Esquivel. Both of them had a shortened freshman season, which was canceled at the onset of the COVID pandemic.

Esquivel had a strong sophomore season as one of the team’s main goalkeepers, though she took her junior year off from the sport.

“Whatever position they put me in is fine; I just want to be out on the field,” Esquivel said. “No more goalie. It was fun but a lot of stress.”

In her fourth year, Palacios said she expects to continue to be a defensive player, primarily.

As the most seasoned member of the program, she noted that practices have shown her how much the group is coming together.

“Working with the team and working with others is how I’ve improved,” she said. “I think there are girls who are coming out a lot stronger this time. We’ve all grown so much.”

Much of that comes from banding together amid adversity. With a lot of matches ending in losses by shutout the past year, Suazo said her players have toughened up quite a bit.

“They definitely are mentally tough. The girls who have come back out have proven that time and time again,” she said. “They know how to pick themselves up, and they know our expectations. We know what Moffat County soccer can do. We might not say, ‘We’re going out for the W,’ but we have our goals. We say, ‘Do this, this and this,’ and we hit those. Those are victories and accomplishments, and I think the girls take ahold of those.”

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