Manuel Melendrez is called "an incredible keeper" by his coach. Photo by William Lange

The Maricopa High School boys’ soccer team will focus on training and improvement over wins and losses for the 2015-16 season.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association created a fourth division for the winter soccer season over the summer. The realignment sent many of the teams Maricopa typically plays to Division III, but left the Rams in the highly competitive Division II.

“Unfortunately our schedule has changed quite a bit from the last couple of years,” MHS boys’ soccer head coach Cortney Kellenaers said. “As far as our wins and losses are concerned I do not really have any expectations. My expectations are rooted in the training. I expect players to show up and train each day and put forth their best effort.”

This season, the Rams will have to face teams such as Skyline and Dobson high schools that were in Division I last season. The hardest test, however, will come from Phoenix Union North High School in mid December. The Mustangs finished as the number 2 seed in the Division I playoffs during the 2014-15 season.

“I would like to see a winning season and expect the boys to work towards a winning season,” Kellenaers said. “However, we are young. We have many players that still have a lot to learn to compete at the Division II level. Our competition this year includes some pretty tough teams as well as former Division I teams.”

The team will be returning eight players from last season, but only five have starting experience. The young Rams will look to their veteran players to lead while the underclassmen develop.

“My goal keeper will be the most important anchor in our team,” Kellenaers said. “Manuel Melendrez is an incredible keeper and will keep a lot of shots out of the net for us. We did not have him for most of the season last year and it was noticeable. Other than that, I have a couple other players that I have high hopes for, but only time will tell whether they rise to the occasion.”

Luis Elizondo, Manuel Melendrez and Josh Munoz are expected to be team leaders. Photo by William Lange
Luis Elizondo, Manuel Melendrez and Josh Munoz are expected to be team leaders. Photo by William Lange

The Rams will kick off their season at home at home against the Spartan of Vista Grande High School on Dec. 1 at 6 p.m.

“My team has a fantastic attitude, and as long as the work ethic stays high we should see some good things from them,” Kellenaers said. “This year should be more fun and enjoyable than years past. I am very excited for it.”

Dec. 1     6 p.m.     (H)     Vista Grande
Dec. 3     6 p.m.    (A)     Casa Grande Union
Dec. 8     6 p.m.    (A)     Kofa
Dec. 10     6 p.m.    (A)     North
Dec. 15    6 p.m.    (H)     Dobson
Dec. 18     6 p.m.    (H)     Saguaro
Jan. 6     6 p.m.    (A)     Salpointe Catholic
Jan. 8     6 p.m.    (H)     Mesquite
Jan. 12     6 p.m.    (A)     Westwood
Jan. 14     6 p.m.    (H)     Williams Field
Jan. 19     6 p.m.    (A)     Skyline
Jan. 27     6 p.m.    (H)     Higley

The 2015-16 Maricopa High School boys' soccer team. Photo by William Lange
The 2015-16 Maricopa High School boys’ soccer team. Photo by William Lange