It’s the kind of day that would make even a duck look for cover, but there was the Central Valley High School boys soccer team, out on the pitch, getting ready for this weekend’s season-opening games in the Tri-Cities.
The 2011 Bears opened the spring season against Kamiakin Friday and meets Southridge today on the artificial turf of Kennewick’s Lampson Stadium.
It may be the first time the team played on a pitch with actual footing thus far this season.
The CV practice pitch only looks like grass – or what used to be grass. Underneath the leafy façade is a layer of mud that makes footing for anything more than a routine pass treacherous. Sharp cuts are out of the question and stopping short generally leads to a pratfall.
“They’re the ones that want to be out here,” coach Andres Monrroy said. “We’ve been outside every day but one because they all said they need to be out here to get ready to play.
“I don’t know, but I think we need to get used to playing in weather like this because I think we’re going to see a lot of it this season. I have a feeling that it’s still going to be like this when we open the (Greater Spokane League) season, the field at University is going to be just like this.”
Monrroy explains all this with a twinkle in his eye that’s only enhanced by a build-up of raindrops. A steady rain only reinforces the field conditions.
This is a special season for Monrroy and his CV program. It’s his fourth year as head coach, and when a coach is building a program, Year four is a major benchmark season.
“These are all my guys for the first time,” Monrroy said. “These seniors were all freshmen my first year. They’ve learned my system; they know what I expect.”
In soccer terms, this year’s squad should be a full expression of Monrroy’s vision of how the beautiful game should be played: aggressively, fluidly, smartly. He stresses communication as well as tactics and attitude, as well as aptitude.
“That’s it exactly,” he says. “And that’s nothing against any of the other coaches who have been here before me. It’s just that this is the first year where everyone should be on the same page. Everyone understands what we want to do and how we want to play.”
That doesn’t mean Monrroy has taught each of his players the game from the ground up – virtually any varsity soccer player in the Greater Spokane League grew up playing club soccer and is fundamentally grounded in the game long before they enroll at CV.
“You can always tell the kids who haven’t played club soccer,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious. They just don’t have the skills.”
When Monrroy talks about having his players steeped in his program, he’s talking primarily about brewing up consistent, positive team chemistry. High school soccer, he says, is far less about skill building than it is about team building.”
At Central Valley, those first three teams have been successful, bringing home a pair of GSL titles. A year ago, the Bears reached the regional tournament, but were shut out by Pasco, 2-0 at Edgar Brown Stadium – one game shy of the State Class 4A tournament’s first round.
The next level for the program, Monrroy explains, is to begin finding success at the regional level and begin reaching the state tournament.
The Bears have the kind of players, and more importantly the kind of leadership, the coach feels it needs to do just that.
Two returning starters for the Bears were first-team All-GSL selections a year ago and a third was a second-team pick.
Senior Alex Riel anchors what should be a solid defense while classmate Devin Allen leads a quality midfield. Senior Joseph Guerrinha, a second-team selection a year ago, should be one of the league’s top returning forwards.
“The thing that makes these guys so special is that they aren’t out there bragging about what they did last year,” Monrroy said. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard any of them even mention it. It’s not about individual accomplishments for them. They’re only interested in what they accomplish together as a team.
“Nothing against the way other programs operate, but you sometimes see special players playing for themselves. They’re out there and you can tell they’re primarily interested in landing a college scholarship.
“My guys want to win as a team. Everything else is secondary.”
That, in a nutshell, he says, is what building a program is all about. Freshmen see the kind of dedication seniors like these show every day and learn to pattern themselves after them.
“That’s what I mean by chemistry,” he said. “This team has that kind of chemistry and they have the skills we need to play our game. I’m excited.”