By Josh Bronson
Pilot staff writer
Expectations are high for this year's Brookings-Harbor High School boys' soccer team.
A team led by mostly juniors, last year's Bruins finished in second place in the Far West League with a league record of 8-3-1 and an overall record of 10-4-1.
After earning a first round bye in the playoffs, the Bruins lost a heartbreaker to the Marist Spartans in the second round of the playoffs.
This season, the Bruins are hoping to take the league crown away from North Bend.
"One of the goals for everyone is to get first place and improve on last year's finish," first year head coach Gabriel Anaya said. "The kids think they can do better than last year and I really hope we can."
"Our goal is to not only win, but play well as a team," senior co-captain Blake Peters said. "We have to get to know each other better and understand each other in order to get the wins."
Anaya, along with assistant coach Rick Aguirre, has put an emphasis on conditioning and stamina early on in the season.
"Once the season starts, there's not much time for conditioning," Anaya said. "We want to get in better shape than we were in last year."
The Bruins are carrying a full varsity roster this year, which contains 20 players.
"I want the starters to feel pressure from the guys on the bench," Anaya said. "It makes the players play harder and better if they know there is someone on the bench that can take their job."
In practice, the Bruins have been focusing on ball control and have been implementing those philosophies with plenty of intrasquad scrimmages.
"I like to do a lot of scrimmaging because the more you play with the ball, the better you get," Anaya said. "There is only so much you can learn in drills, you need the feeling of a real game as well."
In his first year as head coach, Anaya hopes to pick up where the Bruins left off last year.
"I'm lucky," Anaya said. "This team is good already. It was going to be a good year no matter who was coaching."
This will be Anaya's first head coaching position, although he has helped with numerous youth and traveling teams as well as being an assistant with last year's Bruin team that made it to the state playoffs for the third year in a row.
Anaya is a well known face in the Brookings-Harbor community.
He and his family have been in the area for the past 15 years and own and operate Torero's Mexican Restaurant.
Anaya doesn't just coach from the sidelines, he coaches from on the field.
Instead of just sitting back and instructing his players, Anaya is on the field with them, playing right alongside them and coaching as he goes.
At the conclusion of the 2006 season, the Bruins graduated their entire defense as well as their goalie, which included three All-League selections: first team defender Brian Wiggins, second team defender Ryan McCormick and second team goalkeeper Dillon Mitchell.
Last year's team only allowed 16 goals all season, which was seventh best in the state at the 4A level.
This year's defense will be anchored by junior goalie Gabe Anaya, who saw some playing time last year as Mitchell's back-up.
Anaya is a very athletic goalie with good leaping and diving abilities who is not afraid to charge opposing attackers and lay his body on the line.
Junior Allan Freeman is the only player who saw any significant playing time in the defensive backfield last year.
Freeman is a hard-nosed defender that always goes full speed toward the ball.
Senior Chris Gurney is another big body that will camp in the backfield and that saw limited action last year.
Junior Jordan Nelson will also help with some size in the backfield while sophomore Jordan Wichers and freshman Geoff Gowman will provide speed on the outside.
The Bruins are extremely deep in the midfield this season.
Seniors Skyler Shuford, Kyle Botnen, and Peters are all returning to the midfield from a strong season last year.
Shuford and Peters were honorable mention selections on the Far West All-League team last season.
Peters and Botnen use their speed and powerful legs to get the ball up to the forwards while Shuford has excellent field vision which allows him to distribute the ball and find the open man.
Peters may also move up and attack the goal at times as well.
The Bruins will be helped in the midfield this year by a pair of foreign exchange students.
Martin Robic of France brings some height and athleticism to the midfield while David Cevallos of Ecuador has an excellent touch and fluid motion when handling the ball.
Other Bruins who may see some time in the midfield include juniors Ryan Holler, Kevin Sthen and Brandon Bristow.
This year's scoring attack will be led by senior co-captain Mark Aguirre, who was second on the team with nine goals last season and was selected to the second team of the Far West All-League team.
Aguirre is strong and fast, able to either blow by his defender or muscle them out of his way.
"We've always had a very fast offense," Aguirre said. "We still play a lot of through balls, but we're trying to do a lot more passing this year as well."
The Bruins will be without Far West League MVP Garrett Long, who will miss the entire year because of knee surgery earlier this summer.
His replacement will most likely be senior Juan Garcia, a second team All-League midfielder last season.
Garcia scored five goals and handed out seven assists while starting in the midfield last season.
Garcia's fancy footwork and excellent passing skills should help the Bruins significantly up front.
Junior Linden Loren, who saw time mainly at midfield last year, may move up and play some striker as well this year.
Tommy Gilstap, a senior transfer from Medford, will also give the Bruins additional speed up front.
Sophomore Jose Munoz and freshman Anthony Babb may also get some chances to fire shots at opposing goalies.
Bruins vs. Coquille
The first game of the year for the Bruins will be on Tuesday, Sept. 11 against the Coquille Red Devils in Coquille at 4:30 p.m.