Lopez signs with Corban

After receiving first-team all-league recognition in his senior season, Luis Lopez will be heading to Corban College to continue his career (File).

Soccer has always been a big part of Luis Lopez’s life — he has been playing since he was four years old.

Now, Lopez will get an opportunity to play the game he loves at the next level.

Last month, the McNary forward officially signed with Corban College to continue his career as a student-athlete next fall. Lopez had three goals and five assists last season and received first-team all-league recognition as he helped lead the Celtics to the postseason for the fourth straight year. 

“Having one of your players going to the next level and achieving their goal is just fantastic. I’m excited for Luis because he worked hard in and out of the pitch to achieve this opportunity,” McNary head coach Miguel Camarena said.

Lopez will be joining a Corban team that has become one of the most successful NAIA men’s soccer programs in the country in recent years, qualifying for the NAIA National Tournament in each of the last seven seasons, and making multiple appearances in the top-10 national rankings.

“I was definitely really excited to get the offer. I really feel like the team is a family and I want to be a part of the group than continues the string of success,” Lopez said. “They are a competitive group of guys that work hard and don’t let each other slack off.”

As much as Lopez loves playing the game, he hopes to be a coach one day, in large part because of the role that the McNary coaching staff has played in his life. 

“The coaches at McNary have had a great impact on me. They have made me realize that coaching is something I would like to do in the future,” Lopez said.

Lopez has been playing on the McNary varsity team since his freshman year. Despite not getting much playing time in his first season, and spending the majority of his sophomore year on injured reserve, Lopez took this as an opportunity to study the habits of the upperclassmen.

“I was forced to take a seat, but it helped me observe their behavior, not only on how I could get better, but how I could be a leader,” Lopez said.

By the time his junior year came around, Lopez was made a team captain. 

“I wanted to be a role model with the way I played the game and set the example for the younger players,” Lopez said. 

Lopez had several highlights over his final two seasons with the Celtics, but his favorite one came on Oct. 4 of last year in a game against Summit, a top-five team in the state.

In the fifth minute of the contest, Lopez received a through ball after racing past the Summit back line and fired a dart in the top right corner of the net for the goal. It was the only score that McNary needed as the Celtics knocked off Summit 1-0. 

“Something was just in the air that game. Everyone was so locked in,” Lopez said. “I was just in awe after I scored. The crowd was screaming and I was rushed by my teammates. I knew we weren’t losing that game.”

Lopez plays soccer year-round and has had a successful tenure with Cascade Fútbol Club. Last spring, Lopez’s club team won the state cup for their division. But for the first time in his life, Lopez is currently not playing soccer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It’s been difficult. Soccer has been all I have known for most of my life. But I’m still staying in shape and finding different things to work on in the backyard or at the park,” Lopez said.

If COVID-19 ends up effecting Lopez’s first season with Corban, he’s not going to let it stop him from putting in work.

“I am a little worried about this season, but no matter what, I’m committed to this, and I’m going to keep grinding and keep working,” Lopez said.

While Lopez has been one of McNary’s top offensive threats for the last two seasons, Camarena believes that he might be playing a different position in college. But he also says that no matter what position he’s at, Lopez will be a benefit to the squad.

“I believe, at the college level, I will expect Luis to play a different position that he did in high school and club. It might be playing as right defender, defender mid or right wing. Also, I will expect that Luis is going excel and make an impact early on his college career,” Camarena said. “He is going to be a great asset for Corban. He is bright kid with a great future playing this game.”