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Jumping up to 3A is double-edged sword for Juan Diego girls

Set-up gets players ready physically, but what do losses do?

DRAPER — So what did the move up in classification mean to the Juan Diego girls soccer team?

Absolutely nothing. For many years the 1A and 2A schools competing in soccer have played in the 3A tournament.

"I think it's nice to be officially in a 3A region and play for the 3A title as a member of that classification," said coach Jamie Schock.

"In the long run, it probably didn't mean much. We have been playing in their playoffs for years, but it will be nice to play other 3A teams to prepare for it."

Schock is a big believer in preparation for the tournament. Just look at the preseason schedule, and you can see the logic behind his plans. The team has three losses on the year, and each came to a higher classification team (Brighton, Timpanogos and Provo).

"We wanted to get the girls prepared for state," said Schock of the tough schedule. "Personally as a coach I feel that preseason games are just that, preseason.

"They are there to raise your level of play, and I wanted to do that by playing some tough competition."

Playing bigger and stronger opponents gets the players ready to play hard physically, but what happens if the losses affect the players mentally?

"I think it is a two-edge sword," Schock added. "If I do my job, I've prepped them to be competitive mentally and be ready to maybe lose, but I think that it got us ready. If you saw the beginning of region play our team was ready to go."

It helps that the Soaring Eagle can play the bigger schools with some players that could fit on any, in any classification. The Vittacca sisters, Kara and Taryn, have been a big part of the turnaround with the program.

"I think they have put the work in to play at a high level," Schock said. "Taryn has an amazing ability to keep a clean one-touch game. She is really good with the first touch, and everything else can play off that first touch.

"Kara is really good at winning and shielding balls. She brings composure to our defense and really keeps the group organized back there."

A nice addition to the Vittaccas is the play of Lindsey Padjen. Now a senior, Schock says that it has been a pleasure to watch the progression of the forward.

"She has been better every year she comes back," he said. "She is a really hard worker, and that shows by her movement. She is great at her ability to be in the right spot. She moves so well with or without the ball."

If Padjen and Vittaccas are the well-known names of the squad, Megan Maldonado is the glue that holds the team together.

"She plays in the midfield and is the silent workhorse," Schock said. "Her work ethic helps elevate the whole team."

Although there are stars on the team, Schock said that if the team is to go anywhere in October, that it is going to be a group effort.

"The strength of Juan Diego is we have to work as a team," he said. "We have some good players, but we can not rely on just a player or two. If you play as a team, great things are accomplished."

Region 8 glance

(Finish order predicted by coaches)

1. JUAN DIEGO: Coach Jamie Schock has built the Soaring Eagle into contenders. Of course, it helps when you have players like Lindsey Padjen, Megan Maldonado and the sisters Kara and Taryn Vittacca. They have the abilities to make most coaches look good. With the experience of last year's playoffs and many players back, a region title is nearly a lock, but a state title is not out of the realm of possibilities. LAST SEASON: 14-3-1. PLAYOFFS:

2. NORTH SANPETE: The Hawks return a legitimate scoring threat in Arwen Lott. She entered the year with already 24 goals and seven assists. The return of Lacey Collard should give the team a big boost, possibly even enough to give the team reason to believe it can not only make the playoffs, but be able to host a first-round game. LAST SEASON: 6-10. PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round.

3. DELTA: The Rabbits are counting on many new players to take over for last year's second-place team in the region. The defense will be serviceable. The question will be if Delta can score enough to win games. McKenzie Petersen and Shanae Johnson have been able to put the ball in the net thus far, but more is going to be needed for making or advancing in the playoffs. LAST SEASON: 10-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost in quarterfinals.

4. GRAND: The Red Devils' bright spots so far on the year have been Whitney Keough, Latoya Chacon, Silvia Bentley and Oceanna Irish. They have all scored at least one goal and have kept the team in some games. Coach Ed DeFrancia has his work cut out for him to try to push this team to a playoff spot. LAST SEASON: 3-9-2. PLAYOFFS: Missed.

5. CARBON: The Dinos are a team that can play to their level of competition. That is to say they can give some of the better teams a tough time, but could still lose or tie to some of the lower tiered teams. Samantha Smith and Brenda Davis have shown an ability to score if given the chance. Coach Mark Comstock will work hard to try to grab the region's last playoff spot. LAST SEASON: 2-12-1. PLAYOFFS: Missed.

6. GRANITE: You know things are bleak in the program when a forfeit is more appealing than traveling to Price to play Carbon. The Farmers may be hard-pressed to reach last year's win total of one. LAST SEASON: 1-13. PLAYOFFS: Dream on.