Manuel Melendrez. Photo by William Lange

A difficult schedule that pit the Maricopa High School boys’ soccer team against four straight state playoff contenders has forced the Rams into a slow start to the season.

After opening with a 3-1 loss at home against Vista Grande High School, the Rams recovered with a 3-0 trouncing of rival Casa Grande Union High School on the road. However, the thrill was short lived as Maricopa dropped back to back games by five goals against undefeated Kofa High School in Yuma and perennial soccer power North High School in Phoenix.

The Rams dropped a close game 2-0 against Saguaro High School Friday night, but the team showed significant improvement on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

“Consistency is the biggest thing we need to work on,” head coach Cortney Kellenaers said. “We’re trying to get them to where they are consistently trapping the ball, passing the ball accurately and getting their first touch under control so their decision making is a little bit better and faster.”

Maricopa is anchored by solid defensive play from the back line and goalkeeping positions. However, if the Rams hope to be a contender this season, the offense will need to figure how to put points on the board. With just four goals scored over their first five games, offensive inefficiency is a major concern.

“I really like these kids and I’m happy with their attitude,” Kellenaers said. “We’re a really young team, so they still have a whole lot to learn. We’re waiting to execute some simple basic stuff.”

The Rams will look to turn their fortunes around when they host Dobson High School (Mesa) on Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. This will be the Rams last game before winter break, and a win heading into the holidays could mean a lot to this young team’s confidence.