New team. Fast start.

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald

Dalon Parker is at the center of the Durango girls soccer program, taking the head-coaching reins after the departure of former coach Aaron Eldridge. “Changing our mentality is one of his biggest goals, so just completely changing our work ethic,” midfielder Berkeley Davis said.

By Ryan Owens Herald staff writer

New year. New players. New formation. New head coach.

And, so far, the same old winning ways.

Former head coach Aaron Eldridge is gone a year after being named Southwestern League Coach of the Year, and last year’s SWL Player of the Year Brooke Milliet headlined a group of nine graduates.

But after all those losses, the Durango High School girls soccer team has come out firing to start the season, going 3-0-0 – including a win over SWL foe Grand Junction Central – and outscoring the opposition 10-3 heading into Friday’s home opener against Fruita Monument.

Replacing Eldridge is Dalon Parker, who brings an impressive pedigree and a fresh approach with him to Durango.

Parker played club soccer growing up with the Dallas Texans, the same club that produced Clint Dempsey, and he eventually played collegiately at Division II Ouachita Baptist before coaching boys soccer at Highlands High School in Irving, Texas.

Junior midfielder Berkeley Davis said one of the biggest differences between the coaches is their philosophy.

“Changing our mentality is one of his biggest goals, so just completely changing our work ethic,” she said.

Parker currently is utilizing a 3-5-2 formation, exposing the Demons to a new look after they used a 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 in recent years. Offensively, it’s paying off to the tune of an early scoring outburst.

“We’ve been able to put pieces together and put the ball in the back of the net. We’re still having our difficulties,” Parker said. “We’re still not where we want to be strategically-wise, but we’re getting there as a unit, and that’s the great thing about it.”

The loss of nine seniors from last year hit the defense the hardest. The Demons are leaning on a young corps of defenders and defensive midfielders anchored by seniors Stephanie Ogier and Cora Kilgo.

“We’re really counting on Stephanie Ogier, our senior. She’s like the mom of the team, anyway,” Parker said. “She anchors everything for us.”

Hannah Robertson is the standard-bearer for the Demons in net and is expected to get the bulk of the minutes as the season goes along. She’ll be out of town this weekend, so goalkeeping duties are expected to fall to freshman Leah Stephens in her absence.

The buzzword around DHS practice has been fitness. Parker credits the shape of his players for the Demon’s strong start thus far, and it’s been a focus throughout the early portion of the season, helping the Demons outlast opponents despite being at a disadvantage in terms of actual on-field time.

“We’ve been focusing a lot on our fitness and being physically there so we can make up for anything that we haven’t covered on the field, like any technical things,” said Davis, daughter of Donna and Jim Davis.

Now the question is how well the Demons can keep it up. This weekend against two Class 5A programs will provide another measuring stick in the young season.

But, for now at least – so far, so good.

rowens@durangoherald.com

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