After advancing to the second round of the state tournament last year, this year's Delta High School soccer team has its sights set on a return trip. The Panthers, winners of the 3 A Western Slope League title, were bounced from the state tournament by Vail Mountain in second round action.
Elaine Wood returns with 15 years of experience as a head coach and expects her 2017 squad to perform at a high level with another post-season playoff berth within its grasp. Raul Ortiz returns with two years of experience with the Panthers and brings savvy and motivation to the program.
There are 26 athletes on this year's roster and 18 of them bring experience with them from previous seasons. Five of those returners are seniors and provide important leadership. All saw extensive playing time last season. Representing the senior class are Bradley Davis, Ian Downey, Marcos Edmondson, Brandon Harper and Danny Mendoza.
Harper was an all-conference and league player of the year nominee a year ago and earned honorable mention all-state status as well. Harper's ability to play midfield has earned him plenty of respect around the league. Downey was on the 2016 league all-conference list and is a solid defender notes Wood.
Other top players mentioned by Wood include senior midfielder Marcos Edmondson and sophomore Martin Corral who led Delta in scoring a year ago.
Delta's goal keepers are solid as well with sophomore Felipe Bedoy and junior Dusty Long sharing keeper duties.
"Midfield and defender positions are high pressure jobs. These players must have good skills and play with aggression," quoted Wood.
The Panthers play in a highly touted league featuring teams from Aspen, Basalt, Colorado Rocky Mountain School, Coal Ridge, Grand Valley, Roaring Fork and Vail Mountain. "Being league champions last year puts a target on our back. This team is putting in the hard work to defend that title. They will be fighting hard every game so their schools will be proud," stated Wood.
Delta defeated Cortez 6-0 on Saturday, Aug. 26, and faced Montrose on Aug. 29. The Panthers are at home on Thursday, Aug. 31 against Coal Ridge at 4 p.m. and visit Battle Mountain on Saturday (10 a.m.) to complete the week.
Next week's schedule begins on Tuesday, Sept. 5, with an evening contest against Palisade on the campus of CMU. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Two fatal accidents occurred in Delta County within a two-day span last week.
Casey Gillenwater, 25, of Delta was killed the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 13, in a single-vehicle rollover on Highway 133 outside of Hotchkiss.