Andres Monrroy tries hard not to look ahead, but this season his Central Valley Bears boys soccer team is making it difficult.
Monrroy has probably the youngest boys team he’s had at CV – similar to the youth movement his girls teams have had the past couple of seasons.
“There’s a difference,” he insists. “With girls, you can be young and be competitive right away. With boys, it’s different. With boys, the Greater Spokane League is a U-18 league. When you have 14-year-old freshmen going up against 18-year-olds, it can be very tough.
“But this is easily the best group of freshmen I’ve had since I’ve been here. I have four freshmen who made the varsity, and I’ve never had that happen before. More than that, I have two who will battle for starting positions, and that’s never happened either.”
Much will be determined by the first few games CV plays. How well those young freshmen and sophomores play against bigger, stronger competition will tell the story of the team’s early fortunes.
“The difference is kind of big,” Monrroy said. “For example, my starting keeper is a senior, but my backup is a freshman.”
The system Monrroy instituted when he took over the program will help mitigate some of those differences.
In his system, the Bears play a team offense and team defense. Forwards aren’t locked into attacking roles, and defenders are coached to be offensive-minded when the opportunity presents itself.
“Last year, one of our leading scorers was a defender,” he said. “The way we play means that everyone plays the same game, so when you talk about losing forwards or losing midfielders, it’s doesn’t mean the same to us as it does to other programs. It’s pretty easy for players to slide from position to position in this system.”
A year ago the Bears earned a fourth-place finish at state, falling 4-1 to eventual state champion Skyview in the state semifinals and dropping a 3-1 decision to Bellarmine Prep in the consolation finals.
That Bears team was dying to make it into the state tournament – literally. The team collectively dyed their hair as a show of team unity. Seniors got a straight bleach job while juniors dyed theirs blue and sophomores green. Last year’s lone varsity freshman, defender Braden Corigliano, dyed his hair pink.
This year’s team has yet to follow that pattern, but Monrroy expects much from last year’s blue-hairs: goalkeeper Aidan Dowling, defender Chase Marshall and midfielders Alec Bumgarner, Cobi Guerrinha, Reid Eliason and George Herner.
“I expect my seniors to step up and be the kind of leaders the seniors from last year were,” he said. “They had good role models.”
Monrroy had a big pool of players from which to choose varsity and junior varsity squads: His program welcomed 60 aspiring Bears for the first day of turnouts.
“Last year, we were stuck in the gym and I had to make cuts based on how they played indoors and that just wasn’t fair to them,” the coach said. “This year, we’ve been outside the whole time and it was much easier to make my decisions. You still hate to cut players, but you have to make decisions based on what you saw in those couple days of practice. It would be easier if we had a C squad to fill like they have in District 81. Hopefully, we can do that next year.”
Last year’s team was picked to win the GSL title – a heavy burden for any team, the coach explained.
“It’s always hard when you’re picked to win it, because that just motivates everyone else,” he said. “We didn’t win the GSL regular season, but we did catch fire at the end of the season and we won the district championship and went on to finish fourth at state.”
Still, inquiring minds always want to know about this year.
“The two questions everyone always asks me are, ‘How are you going to be this year?’ and ‘How is the rest of the league going to look?’ ” Monrroy said. “My answer to both questions is the same. I won’t know until I see how we play in the first couple of games.”