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Expectations remain high for Pahrump Valley girls soccer

Except for a three-year lapse from 2014 to 2016, the Pahrump Valley High School girls soccer team has made the playoffs every year since 2001. The Trojans reached the Class 3A State Tournament in six of those seasons, including the past two.

But in each of those past two years, they fell to Truckee in the semifinals, which makes the goal for this year fairly obvious.

“It’s a very good habit to have of going back to state over and over again, because each time you go back I feel like you’re more confident and more prepared mentally,” junior Ally Rily said after practice Thursday at Trojan Field.

Rily was an integral part of the Pahrump Valley softball team that won its first state title since 2005 in May. The girls soccer team won in 2011 and 2012 and was runner-up in 2013, and Rily is focused on helping that team do what the softball team did.

“I’m ready for it,” Rily said. “I have a hunger. And since we won state for softball, I want a state ring for soccer now. Every year, no matter what sport I’m in, I expect to go to state.”

Coach Julie Carrington also has high expectations for the Trojans, but her outlook is tempered by typical coach worries, such as having only six starters back when she expected to have more. But a strong junior class, an experienced returning goalkeeper and a solid group of newcomers are reasons for optimism.

“There are a lot of good freshmen that are productive and far enough along that we could be able to fill those positions,” Carrington said.

One position Carrington need not worry about is keeper, where senior Hannah McElheny returns for her second season in the net. With a tremendous defense in front of her, McElheny posted eight shutouts last season, but her coach sees a stronger version this time around.

“She has a confidence this year,” Carrington said of McElheny. “She’s been doing a lot of outside training as well.”

Kaylee Mendoza will be moving from holding midfielder to striker this season, but the senior said she has some experience up front.

“I would sub in my freshman year at striker, and last year I would switch back and forth from striker to holding,” she said. “My shots are pretty good, pretty hard, and I’m working on my leg muscles to get my shots even harder.”

“She’ll be good,” Carrington said of Mendoza. “She has the power to shoot from distances.”

That will come in handy for anyone on the offensive half of the field. While Mendoza noted strikers usually shoot from closer distances, Carrington’s players are known to fire one on goal from 30 or 35 yards, and it has worked.

“It’s not in everybody’s playbook, but it’s definitely in mine,” she said. “We want them to trust us to shoot that ball when we say shoot it.”

The Trojans went 16-5-1 last year, 7-1 in the Sunset League. Seventeen of the 27 goals they allowed came in three games, and the outscored Sunset League opponents 35-6. Equipo Academy joining the league should do little to alter that dominance.

But their one true rival in the league should be their toughest Sunset foe again.

“Definitely Western,” Mendoza said when asked about the one game circled on the schedule. “They’re our number-one rival, and I look forward to playing them very year.”

The Trojans and Warriors played in the Las Vegas Kickoff last year, then split two league games before Pahrump Valley won a 1-0 contest in the Class 3A Southern Region Tournament final. Had each won the following week, they would have met for the state title.

“Western’s defense coming up is now stronger, but I have a good offense to go against them,” Carrington said. “But I think their defensive line is juniors and seniors, and that makes a difference.

“My girls coming up don’t know what they’re playing against, so that’s why we try to do one tournament. And this year we’re actually going to play South Tahoe and Truckee. We’re going up there, not to win necessarily, but we need to know what we’re working with.”

South Tahoe and Truckee are the top Class 3A programs in the state, and Truckee in particular has been giving the Trojans nightmares. Two years ago the teams played dead even in the state semifinals until Ana Seelenfreund’s overtime goal sent the Wolverines into the state final.

Last year, Seelenfreund set the tone with an early penalty kick and finished with a hat trick against the Trojans in the same round. Amber Simonpietri scored twice in what became a 7-0 thrashing.

But those two players are gone, and the Trojans know that if they get back to state they won’t have to deal with them again. In fact, they will know exactly what they are dealing with because of a season-opening road trip.

“Mark (Salmon) from South Tahoe is putting on a tournament, so we’re going up there, not to win necessarily, but to see what we’ve got,” Carrington said. “We’re going to play South Tahoe and Truckee, up at 6,000 feet. It’s good to get my new girls into that thing. Going up there and throwing them into it can be the best kind of training. We’ll see.”

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