All aboard! Shiprock fields girls soccer team for first time
To the average soccer player, scoring one goal can be easily forgotten.
But for the Shiprock High girls’ soccer team, shooting that one goal will be historic.
As of Wednesday, the Lady Chieftains were still seeking its first goal ever as a second-year program.
“Our main goal right now is we want that one point,” sophomore goalkeeper Jurni Clah said. “We want to score in an actual game and get a point.
“That would be the best thing for us,” she added.
Shiprock coach Paul Ankenman says his team will get that historic goal in no time.
“We’ll get there soon,” he said. “As their coach, I’m going to say that we’re gonna win a game before the end of the season. That’s my goal for the kids, and that is what I’m telling them.”
With some soccer background, Ankenman first moved to the Shiprock area in 2019 to teach Spanish at the high school. In his first year there, he started a soccer club for fun, and it gained some interest.
Soon after, the community members proposed to Ankenman to start a girls soccer team at the school.
“The athletic director got to me and said, ‘Hey, we can use a soccer team, and we’ve got our field ready to go,’” he said. “They had been thinking about it for a while, and all they needed was a coach.”
After contemplating it, Ankenman decided to do it.
“We got the students excited about it,” he said. “That in itself is so inspiring, seeing everyone coming out and get really enthusiastic about playing soccer.”
Ankenman said he has 20 girls at practice, and it’s just a matter of time for them to start playing in an actual game. Shiprock had enough players to field a team during the Maria Hoelscher girls’ soccer tournament hosted by Rehoboth Christian last week.
“We’ve only had two weeks of training, so my practice team is bigger than our travel team,” he said. “Not all of them have the training to play in a game yet, so we’re still building on that.”
Ankenman said there is so much to learn in soccer, and most of his girls are starting from scratch.
“They’re brand new to the sport, but that’s inspiring,” he said. “They have a lot of ground to make up, but they’re willing to put in the work.
“We try to work on one fundamental each time and have them try to get it down,” he said.
Sophomore forward Alicia Agoodie, named to the all-tournament team at the Rehoboth tournament, is one of the new additions to the soccer program.
Last fall, she played on the volleyball team, and this year she will strictly play soccer.
“My friends kept asking me,” Agoodie said when asked about joining the soccer team.
“I like to play it, and there’s a lot more running,” she said.
Ankenman said there is a mutual agreement between his program and the volleyball squad about sharing athletes.
“As you know, volleyball is super competitive, so we had a few athletes get cut from the volleyball team, and they got really enthusiastic about joining soccer,” he said.
And while most of the girls are new to the sport, a handful of players have some soccer experience. Clah played competitively as an adolescent while living in Hawaii.
“I started playing when I was in kindergarten,” she said, “but I feel like I’ve lost most of my skills after not playing for three years.”
Sophomore middle defender Hannah Johnson also has experience as she played in a youth soccer league in Kirtland as a child.
She’s been playing the sport since the third grade. In addition to soccer, she also competes in basketball and track.
“I love soccer,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun, and in soccer, you can be as aggressive as you can be, and that’s the fun part for me.
“It’s fun to play, and I tried it because I wanted to try something new,” she added. “It’s a sport that doesn’t deal with hands-on stuff. It’s mostly done with your feet and footwork.”
Johnson said she’s pleased that this year’s squad will be playing a full schedule. Last season they were limited to three games during its probationary period with the New Mexico Activities Association in its start-up year.
“We’re going to have more opportunities to play than we did last year,” the junior defensive player said.
“We played only a couple tournaments last season, invitational games,” Ankenman said. “And now we’re actually entered into the district competition this year.”
The Chieftains will play the likes of Aztec, Bloomfield, Gallup, Kirtland Central and Miyamura in District 1-4A.
With that, they are guaranteed at least five more home games.
Earlier this year, they played Farmington JV in its home opener.
“Our first game was awesome,” Ankenman said. “We’ve never had a home game until (two weeks ago), and that was huge for the girls to have the community cheering for them.
“The other sports team also cheered for them,” he added.
Ankenman said there is an interest in starting a boys’ team, but they don’t have a coach to do that yet.
“I think it’s great that we got them interested in the sport,” he said. “We hope soccer is around in Shiprock for a while, and we hope people see that they can play at the high school level and get interested in playing at a younger age.”