Palma eyes memorable senior year
After paying their dues as young players for as many as three seasons, the seniors on this year’s Central High School boys soccer team believe it’s their turn.
Over the previous three seasons, the Warriors were a combined 11-30-3 overall, 4-24-2 in the Southwestern League.
Much of that could be attributed to having a young team. That’s why new coach Doug Beach is counting on his eight-strong senior class to raise the bar.
Heading that list is senior forward Stevie Palma, entering his fourth season as a starter.
“It’s always every senior’s year,” Palma said. “It’s always in the back of every senior’s mind to be at the top.”
Palma had a tryout over the summer with the Colorado Rapids academy team.
The bulk of his offseason work, however, hasn’t been learning anything new. Rather, it’s been back to the basics for him — dribbling, ball-handling, working on his speed.
In addition to a strong upper class, the Warriors have another luxury they haven’t experienced in a while. With 30 players, Beach had depth and can field a junior varsity team.
Central should be strong in the midfield. Seniors Nick Abeyta, Roberto Navarrete and Thomas Soper bring experience and a nose for defense.
The Warriors are hoping this is the season they break into the upper echelon in the SWL. They’ll have to earn it, however.
Jeff Ellis takes over after serving as the Wildcats’ assistant for two seasons.
“I would say this is probably one of the strongest and well-rounded groups I’ve seen in my three years,” he said.
Center-back Ryan Arotin and center-midfielder Jack Allard join Alex Woomer, Mitchell Van Ackeren, Matt Comerford and Ian Smith as returning starters.
Ellis is excited about the prospects of three juniors — Martin Zupan, Vicente Mora and Mason Alpert — who are joining the Wildcats for the first time but have extensive soccer backgrounds. All three should move into the starting lineup.
It’s been seven years since Grand Junction won a Southwestern League title. New coach Stephen Latta was part of that team. A few of his former teammates on that team will be assisting him during the season.
“I know what it takes to win it,” said Latta, who, as a Fort Lewis College student, observed the success Durango had in developing a consistent program the past few years.
Seniors Sean Berkson (midfield), Matt Leach (midfield/forward), Caleb Ealey (goalkeeper) and Brendan Ryan (midfield) join juniors Tim Hofer (forward), Sean
Foster (midfield) and Erick Villalobos (forward) as players who got significant varsity time last season.
The Bulldogs were very young last season. After winning their season opener, they lost their last 15 games.
Coach Drake Jandreau will still have a young team, although with 30 players, he’ll have enough to develop a junior varsity program, a luxury he has not had the past few years.
Only a half-dozen returning players earned letters last year, but Jandreau likes the spirit they bring to the practice field.
“The attitude and the desire to get better are so much better,” he said.
Senior Gabriel Porras provides speed in the midfield.
Three sophomores — midfielder Brett Hawkins, forward Daniel Jaramillo and defender Kasey Bruggerman — all started last season.
Jandreau’s biggest task will be finding a replacement for goalie Rolando Vargas, who graduated.