Second-year Woodland Park girls’ soccer coach Dan Ganoza believes this year’s version of the Panthers will compete at a high level.
“I’m looking for us to get that winning mindset,” Ganoza said. “Once we get that mindset, hopefully we can get a winning season.”
The Panthers were 5-8-1 last spring, 4-3-1 in the Class 4A Metro League. Woodland Park finished in fourth place behind The Classical Academy, Elizabeth and Cañon City, respectively.
Unlike a few years ago, when the top three teams in the league were guaranteed a postseason spot, teams now advance to the playoffs based on being conference champions or one of the top 32 teams in the RPI standings. In 2018, Woodland Park finished 55th among 68 teams in RPI.
“Little by little, we’re trying to build things up,” Ganoza said. “I want us to have a solid season so the girls feel they’re successful.
“But we have to be realistic in our approach. We have to keep improving as a program before we can start competing with the top teams in state.”
The Panthers lost their top scorer last season to graduation in Sam Lecky (14 goals), a four-year starter. Also gone is Maia Pappadakis, another four-year starter, who patrolled the net. Pappadakis is now playing as a freshman at Marymount University (Division III).
But Ganoza returns six strong seniors and four skilled juniors. The seniors are Libby Blacklock, Gracie Harrison (three goals), Cailin Edie, Samantha Meilink (three goals), Allie Christianson, Lauren Forbes, Samantha Buchholz and Triniti Rohman.
The juniors are Charlotte Eilertsen (four goals), Karly Purkey, Maddyson Cantrell and Tea Hopkins.
Newcomer Sarah Iskra, a junior, is coming over from the school’s basketball team, which Ganoza was an assistant coach for.
“Sarah hadn’t played in several years, but she brings that athleticism on the basketball court to soccer,” Ganoza said. “She will add a lot to us.”
Ganoza has 36 players in the program (18 varsity, 18 junior varsity). The Panthers will not field a C-squad team.
“Too many schools we play don’t have C-squad teams, and that makes scheduling tough,” Ganoza said. “We have two solid teams that will get us through this year.”
The Panthers have a solid non-league schedule with games against Pueblo South, Falcon, Coronado, Sand Creek, Conifer, Pueblo East and Palmer.
Ganoza, a 1993 Air Force Academy graduate, recently was honored as the Colorado Association Science Teacher of the Year.
“I’m humbled that they chose me,” Ganoza said.