MILTON-FREEWATER — Jose Garcia, McLoughlin High School boys soccer coach for the last 21 years, leads his team into what should be another successful season when Redmond comes to town on Saturday.
After all, Garcia has three state championships under his belt and has made the state playoffs about half of his seasons at the helm.
The Pioneers made it to the state semifinals last year and lost in penalty kicks to Philomath. The game was tied 2-2, went into overtime and Mac-Hi lost 5-3 on kicks.
But before the Pioneers can win their fair share of games and get another shot at the playoffs — or possible state title — they’ve got to get into shape.
Garcia says that the team has been working on conditioning as practice opened up, and it will soon be time for strategies.
“We take care of our conditioning first,” Garcia said. “We’ve been working on that and running with the ball. In the future in practice and in the preseason, we will be putting in our offense, defense and tactics.”
Garcia stresses in practice and in games “to keep possession of the ball and make the other team chase them around.”
Expectations are high for Mac-Hi, as they’ve been in recent years. Repeated trips to the playoffs and some deep runs into the playoffs have been a constant for Mac-Hi.
“I think we are expecting a lot,” Mac-Hi striker Alex Saldana said. “We have a lot of returners and seniors. Expectations are high! We should be good, we are still learning as we go, but the chemistry is already there. Making the semifinals last year, it is about time the state championship comes here.
“We are looking good, we still have a lot to learn — the freshmen, the sophomores and even the upperclassmen — as we go.”
Saldana will play forward in a tandem with fellow senior Sergio Alvarez.
“Alex and Sergio will be our top offensive players and forwards,” Garcia said. “We’d like to see them work together well and make things happen.”
Alvarez moved from defender to forward last year and has been on varsity since his sophomore season.
“We like to pressure the other team a lot on offense,” he said. “Attack and make things happen! The team is looking solid. Hopefully, we can get far and get that state title.”
The starting goalkeeper is up in the air for Mac-Hi, with freshman Humberto Villagomez and senior Luis Saldana vying for time in goal.
“We can alternate goalkeepers,” Garcia said. “After we see how Humberto plays our first match, we’ll go from there. He is young, but he is getting there and we’ll just have to see.”
Manning the back lines are seniors Neftaly Cazarez and Enrique Ibarra.
“They are a couple more seniors that I have high expectations for,” Garcia said. “Christian Torres will be an attacking midfielder that was good last year and that we’d like to see even more growth from.
“Our goals are hard to say,” the coach said. “I do always say this — I don’t like to make predictions — all we can do is give our best and go from there. We will take it one game at a time. Do our best, work hard and try to be there in the end.”