Middle School Soccer To Benefit Varsity Program

Matthew Simpson (56) of the RCMS boys soccer team races for the ball against Granite Mountain on Tuesday at Rumsey Park.

Matthew Simpson (56) of the RCMS boys soccer team races for the ball against Granite Mountain on Tuesday at Rumsey Park. Photo by Keith Morris. |

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Payson’s boys and girls varsity soccer teams both struggled this season.

Part of the problem is that the coaches have to spend a lot of time teaching the game’s fundamentals to freshmen and other players new to the sport.

Well, that may be changing thanks to the new Rim Country Middle School soccer program.

Parents said the Payson Parks and Recreation Department doesn’t offer anything for kids in sixth- through eighth-grades, so they petitioned the school board to add a boys and girls middle school team.

PHS varsity boys soccer coach Chris Avakian is a volunteer assistant coach for the RCMS boys team. He said the program will be a major help in getting kids familiar with the game.

“You spend all your time teaching fundamentals of the game, while other schools have feeder programs taking care of that,” he said of his experience at

the varsity level. “So it’s an important feeder program for the high school. And it keeps kids interested in soccer before they get to high school.”

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RCMS girls (white jerseys) compete against Granite Mountain on Tuesday at Rumsey Park.

Kerry Rizza is the RCMS girls coach.

“It’s just a developmental team to make the high school team more competitive,” she said. “Last year they didn’t have enough girls trying out for the high school team so they had to try and find other girls. The town’s been real supportive of this.”

Of course, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing in the first year for the boys and girls teams, which have both started the 12-game season 0-4.

The biggest problem for RCMS has been the fact that the teams they’re facing have more experience. While RCMS is sending plenty of sixth-graders onto the field, along with the seventh- and eighth-graders, most of the other teams mainly compete with the older players.

But they should get more competitive later in the season, as well as in the coming years. And so should the varsity teams thanks to a steady influx of experienced soccer players.

The teams play their home games at Rumsey Park. The next home game is Thursday, April 10 against Prescott Mile High. The boys game is at 3 p.m. and the girls at 4:30.

They also host Heritage at 3 and 4:30 p.m. April 29 and close the season at home against Humboldt at the same times on May 8.

The girls team includes: Joselyn Alonso, Alison Armstead, Yamileth Avalos, Veronica Bates, Yessica Benitez, Taylor Brade, Teryn Fabien, Gabby Ferguson, McKenna Kershbaum, Perla Luna, Ivy Mastin, Madison McCrary, Karla Pacheco, Megan Ryden, Destiny Shannon, Sydnie Sherill, Vanessa Valenzuela, April White, Breanna Winton and Vallesa Woods. Mark Manelli is the assistant coach and Dela Dossuo is the team manager.

The boys team includes: Da’Shaan Bahe, Nishit Bhakta, Mario Cruz, Hayden Gibson, Dalton Harold, Jayden Hinton, Dylan Michaels, Esteban Olivares, Gage Ryden, Matthew Simpson, Cole Tenney, Nick Turlukis, Jordan Varner, Andrew Ward, Jack Windle, Justin Wong and Salvador Zermeno. Chris Harold is the boys team coach and Javier Olivares is the second assistant.

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