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The City Journals

New coach leads Soaring Eagle soccer

Sep 05, 2019 12:27PM ● By Catherine Garrett

First-year head coach Joe Baca will lead the Juan Diego Catholic High School girls soccer team this fall. (Photo courtesy Joe Baca)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

Three years ago, Joe Baca was in the stands watching his daughters Kailey and Kiersten win the 3A girls soccer state championship with Juan Diego Catholic High School. This year, he finds himself as the new head coach of the program that has lost in the first round of the state playoffs in the two seasons since the title.

“It’s gonna be a true team game for us,” Baca said. “For the past few years, we have had the Vaka twins [who are now playing for BYU] and now we’re coming out of that era and we get to see where the talent lies.”

Five seniors — Kiersten Baca, Jeannette Dimpel, Aspen Holdsir, Cassie Nelson and Lizzy Raven — return to start for the Soaring Eagle squad this season and Coach Baca said he will rely on them heavily to lead on and off the field. “They have the most experience, but they have a responsibility to keep their position and hopefully that will motivate all of the girls program-wide.”

Junior right back defender Ellie Simkins and junior right wing Maddie Orges are also expected to be key contributors for Juan Diego this season.

“We’re excited about the year and have goals we want to achieve in winning more region games and hosting a state playoff game,” Baca said. “This is a solid group of players with some new kids that are even new to competitive soccer and I feel blessed and grateful to be here.”

Baca isn’t your average dad in the stands cheering on his daughter. After playing soccer for years, he began coaching his sister-in-law’s team — a group of 13-year-olds — when he was just 22 years old, and he has been involved in the sport for more than 20 years. He helped create a soccer club in Arizona and founded Ajax Utah FC six years ago, a program that has grown to 27 teams.

“I have a love of the development of others in soccer,” he said. “I love to help promote the game, help these kids develop from scratch and watch them succeed.”

At Juan Diego, he and his coaches — Joe Alamilla and Natalie Akiyama — have “structured learning” to have all players understand their roles throughout the program. “At any time, any of our players will be asked to step in and we are trying to get them ready for that and be comfortable in our system,” Baca said. “We’re teaching each girl how to train the same and come in willing and excited so that there is unity from the freshmen to the seniors here.”

In its first game of the season Aug. 9, the Soaring Eagle squad lost to Judge Memorial 4-0 before picking up its first win over Granger – a 2-1 victory pulled out in overtime with a goal from freshman Hailey Mezenen who was assisted by Nelson. Against Bingham Aug. 15, the team had a 6-0 setback but possibly suffered an even greater loss with Orges going down with a possible ACL team. Juan Diego is also scheduled to face Cyprus before region home-and-away games with Cedar Valley, Ogden, Tooele, Ben Lomond, Stansbury and Uintah.Also on the varsity team are juniors Isabelle Alamilla, Brie Greenwald, Savanna Greer and Sami Herrera; and sophomores Madz Burnham, Janessa Flores, Kira Rhay and Jonna Tucker. The 2019 junior varsity squad includes sophomores Teryn Easterbrook, Sonja Gulgulian, Olivia Harbison, Hanna Jessen, Mwende Kavila, Natalie Lamb, Cami Mates, Olivia Meredith, Hannah Munding, Tessa Pan and Chaya Roberts; and freshmen Lily Edwards, Hailey Mezenen, Diana Soriano and Sunny Wilker.

“We want to do our best and put on a show and make Juan Diego proud,” Baca said. “In order to do that, we need to be firing on all cylinders.”