Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tech’s Undefeated Squad

By Dave Wheelock
For The Mountain Mail

At 20 years of age, New Mexico Tech junior environmental engineering student Megan Rosebrough has a longer perspective on the Minerettes Soccer Club’s unbeaten autumn season than just about anyone, including the coaches.
Rosebrough started playing for Tech in the fall of 2008 but missed most of that season to keep her grades up, a familiar story among the school’s student athletes regardless of sport. She’s been back on the beam since the spring season of 2009, and recalls the shortage of players the Minerettes went through.
“Irish-born (NMT Library director) Owen Ellard was the coach then, but we only had about seven players here at Tech and only saw the rest of the team on game days.”
That’s because the team travels to Albuquerque or Bernalillo for Sunday matches in the Albuquerque Women’s Soccer League.
In those not-so-distant days the Minerettes had to rely on non-student auxiliary members to form a full match side. But this fall Tech’s ladies wrote a very different story: the Minerettes scored their best season ever with seven wins, no losses, and two draws.
The team struggled during Megan’s early seasons, but increasingly more Tech coeds gravitated to the team, swelling the ranks to 19 on-campus members. Former Socorro High soccer great Brad Winton came on as head coach of both the women’s and men’s programs, and faculty member Navid Mojtabai added women’s coaching duties to his busy schedule. Attendance at evening practices swelled, allowing more coordination within the team.
The team now consists of players with experience ranging from fresh beginners to former high school varsity and a few club team players.
“When Brad couldn’t be at practice or games” (due to duties with the men’s Miners team) “Navid was there. The variety in their coaching styles appealed to the girls,” says team president Carla Dozal, Sportswoman of the Year at Tech last season, and on track to receive her degree in mechanical engineering in December.
Dozal sported an unscored-upon record as goalie through five matches, until a deep muscle bruise sidelined her. “Jacqui Wise stepped in as goalkeeper and played outstandingly for the remainder of the season,” says Winton.
And she wasn’t the only one. The Minerettes outscored their opponents by the combined score of 37 goals and allowed only three. Following the team’s last match, a 1-1 draw on Nov. 14, the coach supplied a general rundown of some key players’ contributions:
“Natalie Kane and Stephanie Nance played fantastic in the defense for us. Megan Rosebrough was a player that we could always count on to get the team going and control the midfield. Amy Reed not only led our team in goals with 15 but led the entire AWSL. Naomi Sasso (eight goals) and Claire Honeyfield (five goals) were also a big part of our attack.”
Coach Mojtabai stressed the important contributions made by players new to the team, including Natasha Stopa, Isabella Ortiz, Katrina Sweetl, Mercedes Donio, Andrea McHugh, and Beth Hanines.
Winton praises the team’s balance.
“The ladies are a solid team from top to bottom,” he says. “Most games our potent attack overwhelmed the defense but when it came crunch time our defense always came up big. Allowing only three goals during an entire season is unheard of.”
Local soccer buffs relished two rare opportunities to see the Minerettes in action at home this fall, a victory over United World College on Sept. 18 and the first AWSL-sanctioned match ever played in Socorro on Oct. 24.
George Avila, father of incoming freshman player Jessica Avila, was instrumental in arranging the special scheduling concession from the Albuquerque league.
Other sport clubs at New Mexico Tech will be interested to know how the Minerettes do it. According to Coach Winton, “The difference between this team and any other team I have coached is their willingness to learn and try new styles. We had an extremely versatile team this year. We could switch formations mid game and the ladies wouldn’t skip a beat.”
Adds Rosebrough: “The rookies worked hard in practice and that meant we really didn’t have any weak positions.”
Yet Carla Dozal’s summation of her last season as a Minerette might offer the most valuable clue for book-weary Techies. The fall season, road trips and all, “was really fun,” she says.
Following a well-deserved hiatus, the Minerettes will be at it again next spring. Team training will begin in February and the season begins in March.
If the Minerettes keep up their pace in the spring they just might find themselves with a proud new challenge for the fall of 2011: promotion to the AWSL premier division.
The Minerette website, featuring high-quality match photography by Teresa and George Avila, can be accessed at

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