Camp Verde will turn toMegan Reddell (front), Sara Hilton (far left), Tiffani Matthews, Hannah Stanfield, Angel Allen and Alicia Wagner as this year's leaders.
There’s no Michelle Toogood, a playful but hard-nosed midfielder, keeping everyone in stitches with her antics and impressed by her skills.
All three graduated from CVHS in May, along with Stephanie Peters, who energized the offense for a season after transferring from Louisiana.
"The first couple of days I was like, ‘What’s missing?’ It was odd," Grondin said on Wednesday. "It’s a new look for this team."
But this new look may produce familiar results. The Cowboys have played in the last three state championship games – winning it all in 2000 – and may have the goods to make yet another run this season.
Leading the way in ’03 will be a strong cast of seniors who have nearly as much experience as Reimer, McCabe and Toogood did when they came into their final season.
Megan Reddell, Hannah Stanfield, Tiffani Mathews, Alicia Wagner and Sara Hilton all have contributed on varsity for three years. That means being a part of three region titles, seven playoff wins and three trips to the grand finale.
Reddell is as tough as Toogood and could become the new midfield leader. Mathews is a solid defender with great speed that may be utilized some on offense. Stanfield is a stellar stopper/midfielder who can kick "just as hard" as Reimer (who scored 125-plus goals in her four years with the Cowboys).
Wagner has good speed and experience on defense. Hilton adds another tall and strong player to the mix.
Angel Allen, who has been part of the last two Cowboy seasons, is a junior experience-wise but has plans to finish up her graduation requirements this year. She wants to study in France during 2004-05, so this looks to be her final campaign with CVHS.
Allen could become this year’s leading scorer, picking up where Reimer left off last fall. Returning junior Kim Van Hook and freshman speedster Rochelle Williams give Grondin lots of options on the front lines.
Whereas teams mainly had to worry about Reimer the past few years, defenses could have several headaches this go-around.
"If you compare this team to last year’s, we are way ahead – we have a lot more skills," Grondin said. "We have a lot of experience on the field. We have a lot of girls who are fast, and I think we’ll have several people who can score."
Williams, whose older sister Tasha has played for the Cowboys the past couple of seasons, is an experienced year-round competitor (as well as an accomplished kickboxer). She’s typically been one of the top scorers for her Verde Valley Soccer Club squad.
Also back from last year is sophomore Kim Reddell, who earned good minutes by state playoff time. Newcomers include juniors Leah Ayres, Jessica Stoneburg and Shannalee Fowler; sophomores Tiffinie Romero, Gloria Valdez and Alejandra Lopez, and freshmen Jacey Reimer (Chantel’s younger sister), Denise Montijo and Ashley Hart.
Juanita Lucero will manage the team. Mike Reamer, a trusty assistant coach, will return for another season.
The biggest hole the Cowboys must fill comes at goalie. The team returns no one with experience at that position. "We have three girls practicing," Grondin said. "But we haven’t really chosen anyone yet."
Look for Camp Verde (19-2 in 2002), Sedona Red Rock and Chino Valley to lead the way in the West Region again this year. Sedona also lost key four-year contributors like Jill O’Banion, Stephanie Lawler and Taylor Harmon but returns a solid nucleus.
Chino has one of the area’s top all-around athletes in three-sport star Kelly Smith. Just ask Cowboy basketball fans about Smith, who ran the point for the Cougars in some intense Camp Verde-Chino matchups last season.
The first meeting with Sedona comes early – on Sept. 9 in Red Rock country. The teams will scrimmage each other next Friday afternoon in Camp Verde.
Camp Verde will host its annual tournament on Sept. 12-13. After two years in Tucson, the state tournament for boys and girls will return to Camp Verde in November.
It’s there that the Cowboys could run into another familiar rival – St. Johns. The Redskins topped CVHS 1-0 in the last two state championship games. Rising junior Nicolette Trickey scored the winning goal in the second half of both contests.
But this is a new year with a new look in Camp Verde. Yet a season with familiar goals and dreams.
"It’s still pretty early, but we should be in it," Grondin said.