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Valley Journals

Highland soccer team sticks together despite winless season

May 31, 2017 04:00PM ● By Kelly Cannon

The Highland soccer team poses for a photo at Highland High School. (Lon Miles/ Highland soccer)

By Koster Kennard | koster.k@mycityjournals.com
 
Fourteen seniors graduated from Highland’s varsity soccer team last year leaving behind a young, inexperienced team replete with freshmen and sophomores.
 
As if that wasn’t enough, the team also lost their head coach. Julio Gutierrez, a JV coach at the time, was hired as head coach of the young team.
 
As you would expect, the Highland Ram’s endured a tough season. So tough, in fact, that they were unable to win a game.
 
“We started with a lot of young players, a lot of freshmen and sophomores so it was definitely a tough season,” Gutierrez said.
 
The varsity team was made up of four seniors, five juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen.
 
Despite losing all their games the team got along well.
 
“The team chemistry was good but they didn’t know how to play with each other yet,” Gutierrez said. “That was one of the toughest parts trying to have seniors play with freshmen. They both really tried both seniors and freshmen did everything they could. It is difficult to play at a higher level with and against seniors.”
 
Having so many young players on the team allowed the young players to grow in a way they never could have if older players were in their spots.
 
“I guess the advantage is that not many teams get to have four or five kids playing varsity as ninth graders,” Gutierrez said. “Having 10th and ninth graders playing varsity is definitely going to help us in the future.”
 
Freshman captain Jack Thomas said the young and inexperienced team enabled them to form a new team.
 
“I feel like this season was good for us because we kind of had a fresh team,” Thomas said. “A new team. It kind of helped us mesh well and learn each other's playing style like how we fit together as a team.”
 
Thomas said that he thinks that players getting experience this year will be good in the future and that he is excited about the talent that will join the team next season.
 
“Some of my favorite moments were when I knew I was getting better and you can tell the team is finally learning how each other works and how everyone is going to fit together,” Thomas said.
 
Julio Gutierrez Jr. said that the underclassmen getting experience now will help them play at higher level in the future.
 
“The good parts about (starting as a freshmen) were that I got the experience of playing against older and tougher kids and help set the stage for what it will be like in the future when I play against the same type of people,” Thomas said.
 
Gutierrez said there are a couple young players who he is particularly excited about.
 
“I have a sophomore, his name is Fagan Gonzalez (midfielder and forward). He definitely plays at a higher level, and then I have a freshman, his name is Jack Thomas,” Gutierrez said. “They’re very hard workers. Their smart boys and very coachable too.”
 
Gutierrez said his younger players were respectful of both their teammates and their opponents and that helped the team as a whole.
 
“Probably the part that was the best was you couldn’t really see a difference between the seniors and the freshmen,” Gutierrez said. “The seniors did a really good job at making those sophomores and freshmen feel comfortable and part of the team right away, which is not an easy thing in most teams. You usually have this senior group that is kind of in charge of the team and they did take charge of the team but they really included the freshmen in everything we did.”