NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Knowing there's a wealth of local high school talent, Glendale Community College women's soccer Coach Jorge Mena hasn't shied away from tapping into the area pool.
It's something that Mena would like to continue having a handle on for future seasons, though he's energized by the latest bumper crop of area players that will be a part of the Vaqueros this season.
"The high schools in the area have got some quality players," said Mena, whose team will begin its season at 3 p.m. today with a nonconference road match against San Bernardino Valley College. "Whenever you can combine a good group of first and second year players, then it makes for having a better team.
"They can come in already with a great foundation. Plus, I don't have to worry that much about working on the technical parts of the game."
The Vaqueros went 6-8-6 and 4-6-4 in the Western State Conference's Southern Division for fourth place last season. Glendale college also didn't qualify for the Southern California Regionals for the seventh season in a row.
Mena, who was named the conference's Southern Division Coach of the Year in 2002, said the Vaqueros will field 23 players this season. Twelve of them have ties from La Crescenta, Glendale and Burbank.
Those athletes will look to play a part in helping steer the Vaqueros toward the top of the division and possibly end their postseason drought. Mena said there's plenty of work that will need to be done to accomplish one or both of those feats.
"We lost a lot of close matches last year, but at least we were in those games," said Mena, whose team will start division play at 4 p.m. Sept. 28 against host Bakersfield College. "If we can stay healthy and have everybody working together, then we can get some wins early and build off that.
"We want to be a team that takes care of the ball and continues to play great defense."
Mena said he will lean toward a trio of goalkeepers who can share the job of stopping shots. The group will consist of sophomore Esther Rodriguez, a Glendale High graduate, freshman Eulalia Rendon and sophomore Emily Hovendick.
The stopper will be Burbank High graduate Allyson Burns, a sophomore, and the sweeper will be freshman Alyssa Meredith, who also graduated from Burbank. The defenders will likely consist of sophomore Teresina Cuccinello, a Hoover graduate, freshman Claudia Juan, sophomore Iliana Torres and sophomore Melisa Sanchez, a Glendale graduate.
"We have had a lot of practices and I think we can finish in the top three [in the division]," said Burns, who missed last season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. "There seems to be the devotion and passion to push yourself to get better."
The midfielders will feature sophomores Taylor Nelson, Tatiana Jimenez, Lesly Monteros and Stephanie Salvatierra. They will be joined by first-year players Natalie Burns, a Burbank graduate, Samantha Aguirre of Hoover, Sharis Harootun of Glendale, Raquel Orozco of Crescenta Valley and Marina Pedone of Burroughs.
Nelson, who will asked to quarterback the Vaqueros' transition game, said there's plenty of depth in the middle of the field.
"I think we have a lot of dynamic players, not just in the midfield, but all over," Nelson said. "Every position is strong and we have a lot of team chemistry."
The forwards will consist of sophomores Ashley Givens and Tatiana Chavarria and freshmen Amy Rosales, a Glendale graduate, and America Lopez-Martinez.
"We are ready to go," Mena said. "We just need to get into game condition and find out a part of our starting lineup."