By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
Head coach Gilberto Gil Rodriguez believes his team is about to turn a corner this year.
After finishing 7-6-2 last season, the Del Norte High boys varsity soccer team is preparing for the upcoming season with two-a-day practices during the week.
Gil Rodriguez said he and the team want to finish at the top of the Big 5 standings and hopefully make the North Coast section playoffs this year.
"We want to win a championship," he said. "Less than that is a failure. We're looking forward to the season."
The Warriors return several key players to the team, despite losing 12 seniors. Gil Rodriguez said he has what could shape up to be his most talented team in his four years as coach.
"I think we have enough talent to win league and go to the playoffs," said junior Cameron Wallen, who plays several positions on defense. "We have a good bunch of guys who have played together for a long time and know each others skills."
"We love soccer," Jonathan Olvera, a sophomore said. "We always talk about it (soccer). We're all friends."
He added he and his teammates enjoy playing for Gil Rodriguez, who, he said, brings lots of passion and knowledge of the game and is a fun coach to play for.
Gil Rodriguez said he has coached many of his current Warriors when they were kids in the Del Norte Youth Soccer League.
Having so many players who have played soccer together for so many years helps the squad, he said, and added those years of playing youth soccer together have helped form a bond of trust.
Another encouraging sign for the future success of the program is that there has been an increase in kids trying out for the junior varsity squad, Gil Rodriguez said. More than 20 have tried out, and he said he's excited to have "new blood," coming into the program.
Last year, Olvera, who was a freshman at the time, started the year at JV, but by the end of the season, was contributing to the varsity team.
Gil Rodriguez said he believes Olvera has the natural ability and skills as a ball handler to make a difference this year.
"He has a really bright future," Gil Rodriguez said. "He knows what has to be done on the soccer field."
So far, Gil Rodriguez said he has been impressed with the dedication and skill of his entire squad.
Another player he's glad to have back is Ricky Juarez, who scored 18 goals last year
"He's a dog to the ball," Gil Rodriguez. "He's always hungry for a score."
Gil Rodriguez also complimented Wallen for his versatility in playing different positions on defense and the way he listens to direction and works hard to become a better player.
Originally, the Warriors were supposed to pen up the season on Sept. 5 at home against St. Bernard of Eureka.
Recently, Gil Rodriguez said they found out the game has been canceled because St. Bernard could not field enough players this year.
While nothing is set at this time, Gil Rodriguez said he is working to find a replacement team.
If that does not pan out, Del Norte will open the season on Sept. 12 against South Fork.