Trae Dunman is looking forward to this weekend’s Show Low Tournament.
His Payson girls soccer team doesn’t have much varsity experience.
So what can be better than four games in two days?
“I think it’ll be good for them just to get more field experience because that’s what we need,” said the first-year varsity head coach. “Like I told them, I can only do so much coaching them out on the soccer field because they do most of their learning out on the field.
“So, by getting them out on that field more and seeing different players, different teams, what they can do, I believe that’ll give them some more experience. And we can always look at little things that we need to tweak,” Dunman said.
The Longhorns face Round Valley today at noon and take on St. Johns at 4 p.m. They play Grand Canyon at 9 a.m. Saturday and finish with a game at either 2 p.m. or 4 p.m., depending on where they are in the points standings.
Payson opened the season with a 4-0 loss to Show Low at Rumsey Park on Tuesday night.
The roster features just three seniors in Jessie Cline, Savannah Grassel and Danielle Livengood. And Cline is a first-year soccer player.
“We have a lot of new girls,” Dunman said. “I call this my building year. We have a lot of work to do on small things.
“We have about three or four returning that have the experience playing with the team. But a lot of these girls are brand new to soccer,” he said.
The coach said he saw improvement in the players from their scrimmage with Show Low and Camp Verde three days earlier at Rumsey Park.
“They progressed from the scrimmage,” he said. “And that’s what I’m trying to get them to understand: It’s baby steps working our way up just looking at improvement. I told them that we don’t have to win every game. We may lose a few games here and there, but as long as they’re progressing and continuing to work hard, I’m just fine with that.”
Dunman said the Longhorns played to their potential against a quick Show Low squad.
In the scrimmage, they played 35 minutes against the Cougars and the other 35 minutes against Camp Verde. The session with the Cowboys proved costly as a trio of Longhorns had to sit out Tuesday’s game because of injuries suffered in that contest.
“I don’t think the score fairly represents how close the game really was,” said Show Low coach Chris Ellis. “Payson came in with two key injuries and we got a couple of breaks at the right time. Otherwise the outcome could have been very different. Payson’s keeper (Ali Tenney) was fantastic and did a great job of keeping them in the game.”
Things he saw on Tuesday encouraged Dunman.
“They were playing as a team and staying spread out,” he said. “And they were communicating very well. That’s what I want to see with the girls, making sure that they’re talking to each other, communicating with each other and building that team so that they can start working together.
“And soon, one of these days, they’ll make it to that goal. They had a few pressured shots today and that’s what I like to see.
“My goal for them right now is keep improving. If a win comes out of it I will be happy with that. But, as I told them, ‘It’s going to be a rough year and I’m not expecting you guys to win every single game out there. As long as you guys are improving every single game I’m just fine with that. I’m happy with improving.’”
Juniors dominate the roster. There are 11 of them — Tenney, Benedict Brothel, Sadie Dunman, Ingrid Eisner, Joelle Huffman, Nana Iwaski, Marissa Kelley, Marissa Mathews, Payton Petersen, Mishayla Rodgers and Karen Williams.
Sophomores Mariyah Guerrero, Tory Harmsen, Taylor Vaughn and Dahana Zermeno and freshmen Rebecca Carr, Josie Long and Sadie Sweeney round out the roster.