KINGMAN - It took eight years and it sure was refreshing to see its return. The Lee Williams boys soccer team advanced to the state tournament as the No. 15 seed and it was the first time a Kingman team did that since Roy Sparks led the Kingman Bulldogs to a 13-5 record in the 2007-2008 season.
Fittingly, LWHS boys soccer coach Ray Tapia was a senior on that Bulldog squad.
The Volunteers finished this season 10-6-2. That includes winning the Mohave County Boys Soccer Tournament at River Valley in December, when the Vols went 4-0-1.
Lee Williams gave us a heck of a pennant race during the last week of the season. The Vols suffered losses to Kingman and Buckeye after a four-match winning streak put them in contention for a state playoff berth. They were fighting to stay in the top 15 because Apache Junction won its section but was ranked No. 20 and was automatically given the No. 16 seed.
Lee Williams managed to stay ahead of San Tan Foothills by .5719 of a point and was rewarded with the 15th seed.
The Vols traveled to Tucson to play No. 2 Pueblo Magnet and gave the Warriors a tough battle. Lee Williams trailed just 1-0 at the end of the first half before Pueblo pulled away for a 5-0 win and put an end to the Vols' season.
The Vols should take a lot of pride with the way they played and conducted themselves this season. The memories should be long lasting, as making it to the state playoffs in soccer from Kingman is no small achievement.
The future for Lee Williams is a giant question mark now. The Vols lose the 12 seniors who were on the roster, and Tapia, who has coached the program since its inception as a coed team four years ago, also is leaving.
Tapia and those seniors have built a solid foundation for whoever comes next for the Vols.
Kingman came close
The Bulldogs finished just three places behind Lee Williams in the final rankings. Kingman finished No. 18 and went 7-8 overall. The loss to Antelope (4-7) in Wellton on Jan. 19 most likely cost the Bulldogs their own playoff spot.
But where Lee Williams was seasoned with 12 seniors, Kingman has everyone on its roster except keeper Kaegan Rivedale returning. Rivedale finished the year No. 2 in the state with 173 saves.
The Bulldogs finished with prolific numbers to support the notion that they should be a tough out next year. Chandler Baca was 10th in the state and 44th in the nation with 30 goals. Derek Brown had 13 assists that put him No. 16 in Arizona, and Manuel Tadeo added nine assists for 39th.
"We will be a force to reckon with next year," said KHS boy soccer coach Tony Schlosser. "We played awesome soccer for being the young team. We were in a lot of games until the end and the goals just didn't fall our way."
Both the varsity girls soccer teams are improving and the Lady Bulldogs and Lady Vols will have to keep their heads down and keep working. Though both teams struggled in the win-loss column, neither squad ever gave up.
Kingman finished 1-12-3 under first-year coach Dave Kopecky. The Lady Bulldogs say goodbye to four seniors, but they do have a core returning that could bring more success. Expect to read more about keeper Desi Lemmers, midfielder Lilly Garcia and forward Rachel Torres.
Lee Williams ended the season 2-12-2. The Lady Vols graduate seven seniors but have scorers such as Sadie Serrano and Maddie Tribbett coming back. Keeper Mia Santos is also returning.
"Our JV team really improved this season and I saw a lot of future varsity players for next season," said LWHS girls soccer coach Tom Poole. "All in all, the program has improved immensely."