Fields of promise

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By Dave Kavanaugh

For years, Robertson High girls’ soccer coach Ray Parks and his assistants " notably Juan Carrillo " have invested time and energy in building the skills of younger players in addition to preparing the varsity for battle in rigorous Class 3A.

Though such efforts haven’t been easy, the work is continuing to pay off " reaping class after class of capable players on a varsity squad that rarely needs outright rebuilding.

And in recent years, the emergence of the Las Vegas Youth Soccer League as one of the most popular activities for the Meadow City’s youngsters has only strengthened the potential talent pool for Parks as well as RHS boys’ coach Clarence Montoya and West Las Vegas’ RosaKay Carrillo.

“We have a lot of young players coming up through the junior varsity ranks,” Parks said this week as his team prepared for a season-opening tournament in Artesia. “I’m excited to see them play.”

Parks said he thinks this year’s team will be better by season’s end than the 2008 version was at the same point.

That’s high praise, considering the players RHS lost to graduation. To name just three, the Class of ‘08 included leading scorer Ariana Trujillo, starting goalkeeper Taria Clayton and tough-minded defender Samantha Marshall.

“As far as offense,” the coach said, “we have a very good offense. We’re losing some very good players, especially obviously Ari Trujillo. Losing her is going to hurt us, but one of the things we noticed last year is that when she wasn’t able to play, other girls stepped up. Using two or three girls working together as a group, we can score.”

“Our defense is a bit young and inexperienced. But I have a lot of confidence. These girls are very intelligent, strong players who are going to learn from their mistakes.”

“We lost Sam Marshall, a very natural defender, a sweeper, who was very tough,” Parks said. Helping lead the defense in Marshall’s place will be Katie Houdek, a freshman with experience in the position on the JV level.

Parks admitted to having been nervous about replacing Clayton, who’d been so dependable at keeper. But Maggie Duran has inspired confidence. “Maggie has worked hard and improved so much over the summer, building up strength, conditioning, picking up the game at goalkeeper.”

Chief among the team leaders are MariaLucia Carrillo and Leah Lucero, whom Parks describes as “good captains” with a good work ethic.

Raeann Parks is moving up to forward. “Raeann is a strong player who does well on holding balls and waiting for help. She has good ability to break defenses. And she’s probably our best in getting her head on balls.”

On the right wing, Elena Martinez returns. “Elena is one of the most skilled players I’ve seen on my teams,” Parks said. “She’s amazing and understands her position so well. With our wing play, between her and Belen Romero and Brianna Gallegos ... our scoring is going to improve from last year.”

Aside from the Lady Cards’ anticipated ability to recover quickly from their offseason losses, there’s still more where that came from in terms of roster depth.

“We look strong from many, many aspects. Really, we have two varsity squads. It’s just that one is called a JV.”

And beyond this year’s lineup, the future looks promising.

A big reason for optimism lies in the growth of youth soccer in Las Vegas.

“I have to give props to (LVYSL organizer) Jeff Houdek of youth league,” Parks said. “We should be getting some up and coming players that are outstanding.”