There was a time not long ago when Durango girls soccer coach Barry Forget was more worried about having enough players to field a team than making the postseason.
So Forget is as surprised as anyone that the Trailblazers are back in the playoffs after a four-year drought. Durango will play Shadow Ridge at 4 p.m. today in the first round of the Sunset Region tournament at Bettye Wilson Park.
“I didn’t think we’d ever get back,” Forget said.
Durango’s program has struggled since the opening of neighboring schools Sierra Vista and Spring Valley in this decade. The Trailblazers (9-6-1) still didn’t field a junior varsity team this season, but Forget said he had almost enough players for two squads.
“We’re still not the Durango of old, but I don’t know if we ever will be,” he said.
Forget said the recent losing seasons served as motivation for this year’s group.
“It’s been a long losing tradition that just got tiresome,” he acknowledged.
And for the team’s four seniors, their motivation was to get a taste of the postseason.
“It’s our senior year. That’s been our goal for this whole senior year is to actually get there,” Amanda Lopez said.
Junior Janie Bordinhao said: “I think we realized after three years that we would want to win a game.”
Lopez said it has helped that the Trailblazers returned most of their roster from last season, and Forget said that experience — and some strong freshmen — has been key.
“They’ve basically learned how to work with each other,” he said. “And the freshmen who came in were able to fill big gaps.”
The Trailblazers will have their hands full with Shadow Ridge (11-2-3), which handed Northwest League champion Centennial its only loss of the season. But Forget believes his team has enough talent to compete.
“This team, when they start playing, moves the ball around as good as any team I’ve ever had,” Forget said. “The defense is strong, and our attack is as good as I’ve had.”
And seniors Lopez and Cristal Velasquez agreed that the team usually plays better against stronger competition.
“We always pull each other up, and we always manage to do so well as a team,” Velasquez said.
In today’s other first-round games, Arbor View (11-3-2) plays Sierra Vista at 4 p.m., Centennial (14-1-1) plays Bonanza (8-5-3) at 6 p.m., and Palo Verde (10-4-2) meets Bishop Gorman (16-0) at 6 p.m.
The Sunrise Region tournament also begins today at Bettye Wilson Park.
At 4 p.m., Eldorado (7-4-3) takes on Green Valley (14-1-1) and Las Vegas (7-4-3) plays Silverado (8-5-3). At 6 p.m., Rancho (13-1) plays Basic (6-7-3) and Valley (5-5-4) takes on Coronado (13-1-2).
Both tournaments have semifinal games scheduled Thursday. Both championship games are set for Monday.