SAN TAN VALLEY — Before last year the consensus for the Poston Butte girls soccer team was to just have fun on the pitch.
It was more of a recreational activity and the team had the same mentality of believing that playoffs didn’t exist and qualifying for the postseason was something not meant for them.
All that changed last year when Dean Sale took over as Poston Butte coach and turned the Broncos into a playoff-contending team, as they not only defeated Kingman Lee Williams in a dominating 6-1 win but nearly upset No. 6 Prescott in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“The girls are hungry,” Sale said. “They liked the taste of making the playoffs, and they’re a lot more bought in than they were last year. They were always wanting to know why we were working so hard and why we were working on weekends. They’re hungry for it. They want it this year. They liked that feeling.”
Poston Butte has many returning players, including goalkeeper Jennifer Alvillar and forward Rianna Zillmer. The Broncos also return most of their midfield, which is crucial considering their back line is full of newcomers.
“I’ve still got a pretty young team,” Sale said. “I feel like we’ve got some skill, but we’re rebuilding our defense again. We’re going to be young in the back and inexperienced, our midfield is going to be our most solid. Our center mids and our outside mids are going to be attacking more than they were last year.”
Despite having a young back line, the Broncos have spent significant time together during the offseason with workouts, and they also participated in a fall league.
“I’ve spent a lot more time in the weight room with them this year,” Sale said. “Our girls are small and small-framed so we’re trying to get them stronger.”
The Broncos will also have to figure out how to fill the gap that was left by Elisia Escanuela, their leading scorer last season.
“That’s a hard task,” Sale said. “We’re probably going to depend and work more from the midfield. Rianna will be a good addition; she was a freshman last year and she’s matured a whole year and has a full season under her with club ball. I think she’s going to make some goals that she couldn’t last year.”
Poston Butte kicks off the season where it ended, on the road against Prescott.
“My expectation is we’ll be about the same; I’m hoping a little better,” Sale said. “I’m looking for one more win. I’d like to upset Prescott at home on their new turf field, but that’s going to be a tough task.”