Soccer Sports

Eager alumna directing IHS Soccer

Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Burch, all-new staff guiding Lady ’Cats 

Beginning the soccer season Tuesday afternoon, March 12, hosting but losing 10-0 to 3A Alamosa didn’t surprise Tori Burch – well aware that after graduating nine players last spring, Ignacio could be in for a rough ride in 2024. 

What came as something of a shock was when the former Lady ’Cat learned she’d be in the driver’s seat. 

“When she let me know that she wasn’t going to be able to come back this year … . I was like, ‘Oh no! What are we going to do?’” said Burch, recalling when predecessor Alisha Gullion, at IHS’ helm since 2018, was stepping down. “But she was the one who actually – well, her and the girls – encouraged me to apply for the position … like, ‘We know you can do it!’ And I’m like, ‘Well if they see something in me, then why not give it a try?’” 

“She really capitalized the program over the years, and just brought such great things to it. I felt like I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.” 

“It didn’t really, like, feel real until probably a week before our season started,” Burch continued. “I’d went up to Denver for a … coaches’ symposium and introducing myself as ‘head coach’ was super-duper weird! When I got back, and we had the season start the next day – that’s when it really hit me. Since then, I’ve really liked it; it’s a lot of work, but the good kind.” 

Ignacio went 0-15 overall (0-6 in the 2A Intermountain-South) in 2023 and lost a truckload of talent including First Team All-League goalie Trinity Strohl and Second Team defender Trinity Crane, plus prime scoring threats Harmony Reynolds, Laci Brunson and Faye Hackett. Current senior Willow Schulz, a Second Team All-League defender last spring, is back in the fold however, and is one player Burch will look to for leadership and intensity. 

“Willow, she’s tough. Just so tough and so aggressive – I love it so much. That’s what our defense needs,” said Burch (née Archuleta), who graduated in 2017. “So, I’ve really been relying on Willow to lead in that part.” 

The skipper also singled out up-through-the-ranks seniors Darlyn Mendoza-Lechuga, Kristianna Brann and Jillian Middlebrook – plus senior Zoey Ashley, who first suited up in ’23 – as cornerstones of any successes the squad may savor and gave sophomore Bella Lorenzini the start at goalkeeper against the Mean Moose. 

“I feel I can put Kris anywhere. She’s pretty solid and I would consider her our biggest leader,” said Burch, who will be assisted in ’24 by Jade Richards and Katie Whiteskunk. “Darlyn’s a forward and I’ve been relying on her to kind of help out our other two strikers. Both that I’ve put up (as attackers in the formation) so far are freshmen, very new, but once they can work together and get in their groove, I think they’ll be okay.” 

“And Jill, honestly, she’s all-around … great for our team morale. She was just on KSUT – Jen (athletic director Jennifer Moore) had told her to go and talk about soccer – so I’m going to listen to what she had to say! But she’s a really great leader too.” 

After IHS’ Spring Break concludes on the 23rd, the Lady ’Cats (0-1) are set to see action at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, versus Bayfield (1-0, 1-0 3A Southwestern). Crested Butte Community School is then slated to visit IHS Field on the 30th and get league play underway at high noon. Ignacio will then get a first taste of away action with an April 4 trip to Del Norte. 

“I’ve been used to being an assistant – this is my first time, like, being a (varsity) head coach – but I’ve really enjoyed working with the kids. I feel we have a pretty solid set of returners, great leaders, and so I feel every day I’m learning from them just as much as they’re learning from me,” said Burch, who played for both Oscar Cosio and Daniel Sanchez – with Gullion assisting the former in 2016 and the latter in ’17. 

“Miss G had some really great systems in place that I would love to continue to implement,” she continued. “Last year my main focus was the defense, but this year Coach Jade is going to take over that whereas I’ll be mainly focusing on the offense and midfield areas.” 

“Soccer’s a contact sport; it can be very dangerous,” Burch emphasized, “and so having those real conversations about what they’re getting themselves into … has been one of the coolest things with my players. And they’re open with me, like, ‘Hey, can we try this?’ or ‘What do you think about this?’ We’ll try it, and if it works it works! If it doesn’t, we find a different way.” 

“And I think it does help too that I’ve coached at the middle school – I did volleyball this year, volleyball and basketball last year, and I plan on doing volleyball again this August – and I’m hoping that over the years … having those relationships with the girls will bring in more players, so that our program can continue to grow.” 

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