When talking to Delta High School boys' soccer coach Elaine Wood, be ready for lots of smiles. Wood, going on 14 years as a head mentor and 24 years overall, beams with anticipation of what's to come in 2015.
The boys' soccer program is a district-wide team that is hosted by Delta High School. In 2008, the program was located and hosted by Hotchkiss High School. That year was the best on record for Delta County as Wood and her Bulldogs won the league title and went on to claim the Class 3A state championship. The program finished 16-0-4.
Wood sees similarities in this year's team and the 2008 squad. That was a team with speed and savvy, notes Wood.
This past weekend, Wood's team, now located and hosted by Delta High School, drew praise of coaches during scrimmage sessions at Long's Family Park near Central High School. "One of the things I heard from other coaches was, 'they are fast'."
Not only are they fast, but "they understand the game and know how to play it," said Wood.
The Panthers tied with Grand Junction, Fruita and Central with a win over Palisade to make the scrimmage sessions more than worthwhile.
There are numerous athletes for Wood to tout. One of the many she chose was Cedaredge's Danny Mendoza, a forward who has plenty of speed and know-how.
Other players who may possess abilities to impact a game include Delta senior midfielder Marcos Gonzalez and sophomore Brandon Harper. Paonia's Colton Godwin is a junior midfielder Wood added to the list.
Hotchkiss senior Alex Aguilera and junior home-schooler Joseph Holiman will split time with goalkeeping duties.
There are a pair of defenders Wood mentioned. Sophomore home-school player Ian Downey and Nathaniel Gomez, a senior at Paonia High School, will be counted on heavily.
Look for other players not mentioned to contribute to the success of the team.
For the past few years a handful of teams have dominated play in the 4A WSL. Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley, Glenwood Springs, Palisade, Steamboat Springs and Summit are the opponents Delta must contend with and have success against to move on to post-season play. Battle Mountain, Steamboat Springs and Summit have monopolized playoff berths in the past. Throw in Montrose and Durango to spotlight teams that stand in the way.
Wood believes the Panthers are legitimate contenders, and there's always room for one more at the top.
Delta opens with a true test Saturday, Aug. 29, at home against powerhouse Battle Mountain. Varsity action is set to begin at 11 a.m., with junior varsity play scheduled for 1 p.m.