The tables are turned on Cobi Guerrinha this season.
The Central Valley senior midfielder spent much of his career playing up – one of the youngest soccer players on whichever team he’s been on. And Guerrinha has been on some very good teams, both with the Bears and with premier-level club teams.
Last year’s Bears squad reached the state Class 4A semifinals, for example, before falling to eventual state champion Skyview, 4-1. CV dropped a 3-1 decision to Bellarmine Prep and came home with a fourth-place state trophy.
But now, Guerrinha is one of just four returning starters on a very young CV boys varsity.
“It’s different,” he said. “But since I’ve been in their shoes, I can talk to our young guys and I love doing that. I like helping them the way the older players helped me.”
The biggest shift for a young player facing Greater Spokane League competition for the first time is the physical play. Coach Andres Monrroy calls it a U-18 league, which takes some adjustment for 15- and 16-year-old freshmen and sophomores.
“It takes some adjustment because you’re going against guys who are physically bigger and stronger,” Guerrinha said. “In my case, I was used to playing premier level soccer, so I was used to playing against bigger and stronger players.
“One of the strengths of our (CV) team this year is that we have a lot of team speed and that helps. It’s still a physical game, but with speed you can take some of that physical game away.”
It helps that the Bears were able to acclimate the new players with a couple of key nonleague games to start the season, he said.
“We played Kamiakin, Wenatchee and Eastmont to start the season, and those teams like to play a lot faster game and I think that helped get us ready for the GSL,” he said. “It’s like going from playing really fast to just playing fast.”
The Bears stumbled against Shadle Park going into spring break, but with important games against league-leading Mead and Ferris coming up this week, the team is in a good position to achieve their goals of winning the league and district title.
“I think we’d all like to have that Shadle game back, but we’re still in excellent shape,” Guerrinha said. “We have to keep playing and working hard to get better, but I like where we are. We still have some very big games ahead of us: Mead, Ferris, North Central, U-Hi. We control our own destiny.”
Being a team leader to his younger teammates is a new experience, Guerrinha said. But it’s one he’s been prepping for.
“I had some very good team leaders to learn from,” Guerrinha said. “My brother, Joseph, was a very good leader. Just his presence on the field was enough to inspire his teammates. And I played alongside Lucas Schneidmiller the last couple seasons and I learned a lot from him.
“Leadership is something you definitely have to learn. It’s not just something you walk out and can do. I don’t think a freshman could ever step into those shoes and be a team leader, not the way those guys were.”
Guerrinha’s brother, Joseph, was involved in a serious on-field collision during his senior season at Central Valley, suffering a serious concussion after a head-to-head collision when he and an opponent battled for a header.
“I was watching that game from the bench and it was scary,” Cobi said. “My brother is doing fine now. He’s at Washington State now and plays intramural soccer and basketball.
“But it’s not something that has changed the way that I play – if anything it’s made me even more aggressive in going after a ball. I don’t want to get hurt, obviously, but I think if you go stronger for the ball you ultimately are better off.”
Guerrinha plans to follow in his brother’s footsteps next season.
“I’ve already been accepted at Washington State, and since they don’t have a soccer program, I’m going to just be a student starting next year,” he said. “My club season is all over, so my soccer career really just comes down to the last few games of this season.
“I’m trying not to think about it as an ending just yet. I think, though, that when it does come to an end it will hit me pretty hard.”