Nearly one-third of its Southwestern League schedule complete, its entire nonconference schedule already history and more than half of its games in the books, Durango High School will finally play a home game and showcase its two-time repeating SWL championship team."We've had a great league start," Durango High School girls soccer coach Aaron Eldridge said Wednesday. "Hopefully, we can continue that run."
Durango (5-3) played its first eight games on the road, including a 3-0 start in the SWL with a trio of shutouts at Montezuma-Cortez, Fruita Monument and Montrose.
This weekend, however, Eldridge expects to be his team's toughest test.
Durango is scheduled to play Grand Junction at 5 p.m. today at Riverview Sports Complex, then Grand Junction Central at 11 a.m. Saturday.
"Both teams, (Grand) Junction especially, have gone to the Front Range to get their competition," Eldridge said.
"Junction beat Coronado, which we lost 3-0 to, although we didn't play well at all, and (the Tigers) lost to Pine Creek, whom we beat.
"I expect these two teams to be a bit more dangerous.
"These two teams are the ones that should be pushing us," he said.
With its undefeated start in this year's SWL slate, Durango is unbeaten in its last 23 league games.
Durango, back-to-back SWL champions, has finished its last two seasons 8-0-1 in league play.
"We've tied two games - one last season and one the season before that," Eldridge said.
"We want to try and eliminate that tie."
Starting today, Durango will play five of its remaining seven games at home, save for a pair of road games April 24-25 against this weekend's opponents in the Grand Valley.
Durango will chase this weekend's Grand Junction teams with Montrose and Fruita Monument on April 10-11, respectively, then finishes the season April 30 against Montezuma-Cortez.
"We've got great balance," Eldridge said of this year's team. "We've got six senior leaders, and a lot of young talent coming in."
Bekah Keil, Katerina Garcia, Jocelyn Leroux, Kristi Gemperline, Erin Doyle and Mary Flick are the Demons' seniors, and they're sprinkled throughout Eldridge's 4-4-3 starting lineup.
Keil starts at left outside midfielder, while Garcia leads the team with seven goals in eight games at striker.
Gemperline anchors the middle of the defense, while Doyle starts at right fullback and Flick a part-time starter at left back.
"We've shifted it around a bit, because we basically go two players deep in every position," Eldridge said.
Three games, three shutouts - the Demons' success hinges on their defense, which returns their starting five, including the goalkeeper, from last year's team.
Gemperline and Kelly Fuge man the middle, Doyle at right, and Flick and Brooke Sinton at left. Callie Morris, for the third consecutive season, starts in goal.
"They've been wonderful. They haven't given up a goal in league play," Eldridge said. "They're the foundation that we build off of; we trust them to hold things down when our offense goes astray."
The offense mostly has been Garcia.
"It'd be nice to have some other people producing on offense," Eldridge said.
Garcia, last year's leading scorer, is playing up top with Neely Surmeier, who had an assist in the Demons' 4-0 victory last time out at Montrose.
"They're developing some chemistry," said Eldridge, perplexed at the slow bond between the two basketball stars. "Neely assisted Kat in the last game, so hopefully Kat will return the favor this weekend.
"We've worked on some stuff this week, coordinating our runs with our forwards so everyone knows what to expect, when to look for each other."
Kelsey McLean, "who is great at winning the ball back, getting the play out and moving forward," Eldridge said, and Morgan Gurule play center midfield, while Keil plays the left and Chelsey Moffat the right.
The offense, which has clicked in its last three, was the coach's primary concern.
"Creating goal-scoring opportunities was not the issue, we just need to make sure we capitalize on those opportunities," Eldridge said.
"One of our problems earlier this season was consistency, but then that's to be expected in the preseason.
"Ever since league play, we've been clicking."