COACH: Mario Garcia (1st season)
LAST YEAR: The Wizards placed first with a 12-0 record in the Class 4A Tri-Valley Conference, and finished 13-2 overall. They lost to Centaurus in the second round of the 4A state playoffs after beating Steamboat Springs 3-1 in the first round.
KEY PLAYERS: Kelsey Steffens, sr., midfielder; Bailey Zehr, so., forward; Danielle Wellman, so., center/back; Lacy Fry, sr., left midfielder; Madie Slocum, so., goalkeeper; Leticia Oliva, jr., center-midfielder.
DID YOU KNOW? Wizards coach Mario Garcia was a volunteer assistant coach for the Wizards last year. He is replacing Cristi Thomas as head coach. Thomas resigned as coach to spend more time with her newborn baby. Garcia played goalkeeper all his life and said he played two leagues below Major League Soccer.
GARCIA’S COMMENTS: “We have quite a few freshmen and sophomores that could possibly make varsity and even start. My philosophy is high-pressure defense, fitness and everyone attacks. In soccer, high-pressure defense, especially at the high school level, leads to a lot of opportunities for the offense. I expect both (Steffens and Zehr) to score at least 20 goals apiece. This year, I’m asking Kelsey to be a little bit more balanced between scoring and assisting just because she’s such a good dribbler, and she’s really hard to stop at the center. I’m hoping that placing her at the center that she has more room to either pass or shoot and hopefully make everyone around her better. When you come into a successful program like the one Cristi built, you don’t want to change too much. We do have to make some changes as far as who plays where. Cristi made the girls feel like family. There was a lot of chemistry between the girls, and she encouraged the girls to play outside the season and that’s been growing. I’m extremely excited because I got to see the potential that they had from last year. We have enough experience and talent on our team to where we could always pull off an upset against a team that has a higher state ranking.”
SEASON OUTLOOK: With Steffens, who led the Wizards with 22 goals and has 61 goals in her career, and Zehr leading an offensive charge and Garcia preaching defense, look for the Wizards to have another banner season and advance to the state tournament despite losing some valuable seniors.
— T.M. Fasano