To purchase more images of the soccer team click here Payson Girls Soccer team
Although Trae Dunman is the first-year head coach of the Lady Longhorn soccer team, his preseason job duties more resemble those of noted automotive pitchman Tex Earnhardt.
“And that ain’t no bull.”
Consider this — only 17 girls turned out last week for the onset of 2013 season, forcing Dunman to take to the pulpit wherever he can to preach to PHS students the values and excitement of the sport.
But that’s not unusual — about two decades ago, veteran cross country coach and P.E. teacher Chuck Hardt used his classes as a platform to convince students to try out for the sport, which was then in its infancy.
Hardt succeeded, eventually building the program into one of the finest in Arizona.
Dunman is also certain he’s on the right path. “My focus right now is to convince more girls to play and I think I’ll do that.”
His efforts to attract more girls have been supplemented by those of Athletic Director Don Heizer.
“He is helping me, talking to girls about playing,” said Dunman.
Most disheartening about the low numbers, however, is that some of those who turned out have not been cleared to play.
“They are still trying to figure out their sports fees and blue cards,” said Dunman.
Blue cards are given to student-athletes signaling they have their physical exams and permission slips on file the athletic director’s office and are cleared to begin practicing.
During last week’s after-school practices, Dunman estimates he had only a dozen players eligible to participate.
Due to the limited number of team members, Dunman does not expect to field a junior varsity team as the school has in some past years.
Among those who have turned out, there is a small nucleus — Savannah Grassel, Marrisa Kelley, Ali Tenney and Marissa Mathews — with high school experience.
Dunman’s strategy is to count on those players to provide the all-important leadership that will be needed to mold the team into a cohesive unit.
In preseason practices, Dunman has focused on conditioning and fundamentals and when roster numbers grow, will begin scrimmaging and molding his offense and defense.
“We want to get the girls out, get them interested and get them some on the field experience,” he said. “Once we do that, we will begin to build the team and work up to winning.”
His strategy this season is to run a 4-3-1-2 scheme that he contends will give all the players a chance to be successful.
The season’s game plan, however, is not etched in stone.
“It could change from game to game,” Dunman said. “We have to find out where every girl plays best.”
Although Dunman played soccer for four years at PHS, he’s not certain which teams will give the Lady Horns their stiffest competition in the race for postseason honors.
“It could be Show Low, they have been good for years,” he said.
That prognostication might not be good news for the Lady Horns because they open the season, Sept. 3 at Rumsey Park, against the Cougars. Game time is 7 p.m.