Rongo returns to head young but talented MUHS girls soccer

Mingus celebrates one of their the eight goals they scored during their scrimmage on Friday against Goldwater at home. (VVN/James Kelley)

Mingus celebrates one of their the eight goals they scored during their scrimmage on Friday against Goldwater at home. (VVN/James Kelley)

Mingus Union girls soccer is young and has a new coach but they’re eyeing a return to the playoffs.

Joe Rongo returns as head coach. He led the program from about 2002 to 2007.

“I kinda got wrangled back in but I’m glad I did (laughs),” Rongo said.

This time around, coaching the Marauders is a lot different.

“Back then I had coached the girls, the girls that won State in 2010, I coached them since they were in like second grade,” Rongo said. “It’s just like knowing them, the positives and negatives (laughs). I know some of the girls and they don’t know me either. So it’s a whole new kind of experience for me like not having a set idea of what we need to do.”

Junior defender Ginessa Altamirano and senior Nicole Spitzke are the captains.

“We’re definitely getting better at working together and passing,” Altamirano said.

In their scrimmage on Friday Rongo shared laughs with the referees and the players.

“He’s fun, definitely really fun and like back then he was a good coach,” Altamirano said. “He can be kinda demanding sometimes but he’s like really chill and nice about it and everything and is always so positive with us all the time.”

Mingus Union started the second Rongo era with an 8-0 win over Barry Goldwater on Friday afternoon in a scrimmage at home.

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Mingus head coach Joe Rongo addresses the team between periods during the Marauders’ scrimmage on Friday. Rongo previously led the program in the 2000s. (VVN/James Kelley)

Rongo said the Marauders are looking good early on.

“ I’d imagine Goldwater is going to be one of the weaker teams we experience but watching what they were doing, they were doing everything we practiced,” Rongo said.

Sophomore Marli Ureta led the way with four goals, sophomore Felicia Bueno had a brace and sophomores Jaiden Behlow and Tianna Alvarado each had a goal.

The scrimmage was broken up into three 25 minute periods.

“We definitely did good,” Altamirano said. “We were really doing good with talking and passing and we definitely dominated the other team.”

Going into the scrimmage the Marauders’ communication was a concern for Rongo but he said they executed it well.

Now their next project is to work on their movement into space.

“What do you do when you don’t have the ball?” Rongo said. “You’re all good with the ball, what are you going to do when you don’t have the ball?”

The Marauders open the season with the Desert Cup Classic starting on Nov. 28, hosted by Scottsdale Christian at Reach 11 Sports Complex. The tournament features 21 teams like Thunderbird, Moon Valley, Sedona Red Rock, North, South Mountain, Raymond S. Kellis and Trevor G. Browne.

Rongo said he expects the Marauders to have less extreme scores this year.

“Last year they won some big games and lost big scores and won by big scores,” Rongo said. “I think it will be tighter, we’re not gonna get whupped so much and we’re not gonna do the whupping so much (laughs).”

The Marauders’ home opener is Dec. 1 against Metro Tech.

This year Mingus Union features seven sophomores and three freshmen.

Altamirano said the Marauders will be younger this year but better.

“That team that won State started a lot of freshmen and I think that started a trend,” Rongo said. “Because Verde Valley girls soccer has gotten really strong club wise, we’re seeing the product of the work.”

Last season Mingus Union went to 7-6 and 3-1 in the Grand Canyon Region and lost to Thunderbird in the first round of the state tournament.

The freshmen have impressed Altamirano.

“They’re good actually,” Altamirano said. “They’ve caught on quick with varsity.”

Rongo called Ureta a “phenomenal player” and was also impressed with defenders Altamirano, junior Kaitlyn Card and freshman Tatum Barker.

“Where I felt most proud of is how our defense played,” Rongo said.

Mingus Union lost Auli Hanks who was second team all-region and Holly Johnson who was honorable mention but return Zoey Arwine, a sophomore this season, who was honorable mention at goalkeeper.

Hanks scored 0.31 goals per game and 0.69 points per game for Salem University.

“I think we’ll make State, because we’re such a young team I think we’ll be really strong in the next two years but I think we’ll make State this year and have a decent standing,” Rongo said.

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