Elio Carella (left) gains possession of the ball and then fakes out a defender during a intersquad scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 23 (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
The McNary boys soccer program will have some turnover in their roster in 2019 after graduating nine players from last year’s team.
What hasn’t changed, however, is the level of confidence that head coach Miguel Camarena has in his program.
“We always have younger guys in the program, so we want to develop those guys so that every year so we can compete at the highest level. This year is going to be the same,” Camarena said. “We have a really good base of of incoming juniors and seniors, plus we have some quality freshman coming in, so our expectations are high.”
Four of the players lost to graduation were cousins — Miguel Bravo, Jose Luis Bravo, Jovanie Bravo and Jesus Lopez.
All four players were played for the Celtics varsity squad for at least three seasons.
The Celtics will also be without Sebastian Lopez, a 2018 first-team all-league goalkeeper.
But even though they will be missed, Camarena believes that last year’s senior class helped pave the way for his current upperclassmen.
“What they did together is something that I will never forget. For two years in a row, they helped us be the best defense in the conference and they have helped a lot of these kids become better players,” Camarena said.
The Celtics only allowed multiple goals in two of 13 regular season games last season. Camarena plans on that trend to continue in 2019 as seniors Alexis Soto, Manuel Avendano and Jose Martinez will look to lead the back line for McNary this year.
But one thing that the Celtics are hoping to change this season is the amount of goals they score.
In 2018, McNary was held to one goal or fewer in nine of their contests. However, Camarena believes that he has the personnel to turn that stat around this year.
“Last year, one of biggest issues was that we couldn’t score. We would create so many opportunities and not score. That is going to be a focus this year. We’re going to have guys this year in that position that can put the ball inside the net,” Camarena said.
The players that Camarena is referring to are juniors Edgar Salazar, Eddie Martinez and Eli Petilo. The three forwards are expected to get the bulk of the scoring opportunities for the Celtics.
In the midfield will be senior leaders Luis Lopez and Jack Baez, both of whom have played on the McNary varsity team every year of their respective careers.
With the Celtics in the same conference as Summit — the state runner-up from last season, who is bringing back nearly their entire roster — it’s likely that McNary won’t be vying for a MVC title. However, it is realistic for this McNary team to finish in the top third of the league and be in position to host a home playoff game. But Camarena has even higher goals for his group.
“Our expectations are the same. We want to play well enough to put us in the top 10 in the rankings. That is going to be our goal. We want to play with that confidence, and so far, I’m impressed with what I have seen,” Camarena said.