Athletes of the Week: De Villegas-Decker, Balding, and Palisade Girl’s Soccer

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 7:09 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - District 51 may be on spring break right now, but that isn’t slowing down the Palisade Bulldogs Girl’s Soccer Team.

Despite the weather conditions this week being anything other than what you may think of when you think of spring break, the Bulldogs are hard at work practicing.

“Obviously this week is supposed to be pretty cold. Our last game we played Summit, it got down to eleven degrees. a lot of our games currently at the moment are in colder places, because we’re traveling up in the mountains to play some of these teams. So this training that we’re doing right now is going to help us prepare for the cold weather. And it’s just going to help us push through some of the harder moments so that we can get prepared and stay in shape as we progress on through the season.” Sophomore Midfielder Taylor Balding said.

“Spring break has allowed us to really put the gear and work in,” Sophomore Forward Mia De Villegas-Decker said.

The Soccer season is still young, but the Bulldogs have been as good as it gets so far, going 3-0 so far.

“In our first game, we just wanted to go in and compete. Because last season, we started off not as strong. And so our philosophy kind of moving through the season is one step at a time, every time we accomplish one thing, we just want to move on to the next and just keep it going strong,” Balding said.

De Villegas-Decker has had a knack for finding goals so far this season, in just three games, she has put up five of the bulldogs seven on the season.

“I think that’s a mix of both. Personally, I play club, so I have a lot of experience getting to the goal scoring, shooting just that kind of practice under my belt, but also that’s a play we want to achieve, we want to be able to be aggressive in the attacking third, and to have aggressive forwards,” De Villegas-Decker said.

On top of that the Bulldogs also boast three players ranked amongst the top 25. In the 4A league.

“At palisade, we’re trying to make each other better players. And so of course, we have a lot of players that are top scorers and whatever that may be. But at the end of the day, we’re one team and so even though one person might be getting all the goals, or however it may come off,” Balding said, " Our goalkeepers are working very hard, our backline is working very hard, all to be able to support some of these goals, it’s a contagious team chemistry that’s kind of carrying us through.”

According to the Palisade players, the growing soccer programs in Western Colorado have served both as a good thing, as well as a bad. On one hand, it allows athletes to hone their skills, as well as get familiar with nearby competition. But it also allows their competition to get to know them.

“We go from teammates to opponents and honestly it’s a really cool experience, because you just go to compete and its for fun,” Balding said.

“When we know them personally, it’s really easy to say, hey we got you, we’re going to mark you and I’m sure that’s the same for other teams with us,” De Villegas-Decker said.