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New Zias soccer coach looks to change mindset

Sports writer

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After 12 years at West Texas A&M, new Eastern New Mexico University women’s soccer coach Omar Morales will see the WT/ENMU rivalry from the other side this season.

Morales, who replaces Todd Padgett, played for the WT men’s team for four years (2002-05) and since has been an assistant at the school, serving both men’s and women’s soccer from 2006-09 and with the men the past four years.

Having seen the Zias first-hand, Moreno said he always thought they the talent to compete in the Lone Star Conference. ENMU, picked for last in the six-team LSC in preseason, and the only squad not to receive at least one first-place vote, has managed one winning record (10-8-1 in 2005) and four .500 records overall since the program started in 2003, and just one winning record in LSC play.

“I think the biggest thing is changing the mindset of the program and instilling that competitive attitude,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting, but when I was at WT I always wondered why this program wasn’t better.”

ENMU opens the season with games in Denver on Thursday against Western State (Colo.) and on Sunday against host Regis.

The Zias (4-8-5, 1-5-4 LSC a year ago) return a handful of key players, notably on defense. Junior Xan Ortiz was the LSC’s preseason goalkeeper of the year and split time with senior Fabienne Wilson, while freshman Cristina Escobedo is also in the mix.

“This year I have a really good feeling,” junior defender Melissa Moxley said. “(Morales has) players in the positions they need to be in.”

Senior first-team All-LSC selection Renee Romero is also back at a defender position, while senior Victoria Perez returns in midfield. Morales has moved junior Danielle Caro from the midfield to a forward position, trying to rev up the team’s offense.

“I think she’s going to score a lot of goals for us,” Morales said.

Moxley, from Rio Rancho, noted the team lost only three players to graduation, but is confident the Zias can make up for it.

“I don’t think we lost very much depth,” she said. “Everybody who’s come in has stepped up and played well.

“It’s a new attitude as a whole. It’s (mostly) the same players with a different coaching staff, and they’ve made everybody excited to play.”

Moxley and Morales say winning the league title is a goal, but the coach acknowledged a more realistic outlook at this point would be to make the four-team conference tournament.

“We’re excited,” he said. “Hopefully, we can turn some heads. But it’s one day at a time.”

ZIAS SCHEDULE

September

4 — vs. Western State at Denver, 2 p.m.; 7 — at Regis, 1 p.m.; 10 — Adams State, 2:30 p.m.; 14 — at New Mexico Highlands, 1 p.m.; 16 — Southern Nazarene, 2 p.m.; 18 — Texas-Permian Basin, 2 p.m.; 20 — Texas A&M International, noon; 26 — at Texas A&M-Commerce, 6 p.m.-x; 28 — at Texas Woman’s, 1 p.m.-x.

October

3 — at West Texas A&M, 6 p.m.-x; 10 — Midwestern State, 3 p.m.-x; 12 — Angelo State, 1 p.m.-x; 17 — West Texas A&M, 3 p.m.-x; 24 — at Angelo State, 4 p.m.; 26 — at Midwestern State, 1 p.m.-x; 31 — Texas Woman’s, 2 p.m.-x.

November

2 — Texas A&M-Commerce, noon-x.

All times Mountain. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference match.