The Aragon High School Varsity Soccer team took the field for the first game of the season on Wednesday against Riordan High. The teams played to a 5-5 stalemate in this non-league match-up at Aragon soccer's home-away-from-home Fiesta Meadows Field.
"This was a tune-up match, something like a pre-season NFL game. It shows us what we need to do. I wasn't elated by our performance, but it gave me confidence in our potential," said head coach of Aragon Guy Oling.
If the defense of the Dons needs help, the potential for scoring goals this year was apparent in the match. Midfielder Jose Naverette played like he had an eye at the end of his shoe. He scored twice, on free kicks, which is the equivalent of hitting a basketball shot from about five feet past the three point line.
The other goals were by Shawn Fender, with an assist by Kevin Chang, Kai Yamazaki, also assisted by the ubiquitous Chang, and Diego Torrelio, assisted by Hector Peccorini.
The team has high expectations for itself this season, with a cast of a few very talented stars and a strong supporting cast, according to Oling. "If we're not in the top three, I'll be disappointed. If we finish first, I won't be surprised." The coach broke into a smile, cocked his head, and asked "Did that make sense?"
Oling's experience in coaching is extensive, with 24 years as a coach in the PAL league and 15 at Aragon. All of this soccer doesn't seem to have dampened the coach's enthusiasm for his players' success and growth.
Oling's sideline demeanor would make any motivational psychologist proud, as he prefaces almost any criticism with a compliment. "Nice job, Michael, nice job. Recover, Recover!" is an example of the constant coaching Oling does throughout the game.
"At the high school level," says Oling, "there are different priorities than at the pro or college level. My goal is to let the kids have fun, while developing a sense of the game. I want these guys to grow as players, but not at the expense of their academics. If we win, that just adds to the experience."
At a particular point in the game, after a successful defensive series by his team, the coach praised a player by saying "Good job Josh, way to talk." While it is unclear whether the player in question prefers silence, or is extremely shy, the team appears comfortable taking compliments in almost any form from their coach. <