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Wahluke coach says Warriors looking good this spring

by GABRIEL DAVIS
Staff Writer | March 8, 2024 1:30 AM

MATTAWA — Wahluke Boys Soccer Head Coach Cele Lopez talked about how his team is doing heading into this year’s soccer season as practices pick up and games begin. 

“I’m really excited. I think we’re going to have a solid group. There's a lot of energy, positive energy around the kids. I saw a really good vibe during practices. I see a whole bunch of friends just playing the sport they love, so I'm excited for the season,” Lopez said. “Sometimes in high school sports … it's more about the way they get along, and so far we're doing great.”

Lopez said the team’s composition looks good. 

“We lost we lost a couple of key players (since last season), but we also got a couple of good freshmen, so they've been playing club (soccer),” he said. “I know it's a different animal in high school, but I think they have what it takes.”

Lopez then highlighted who he believes will be helping lead the team this year.

“I really want to highlight my captains. They’re bringing the team together this year. They’ve been working with the team in the offseason. I was actually impressed that they pulled off good numbers before the season started. They were practicing on their own, they were kicking around, they were going for runs, so I really want to highlight my captains,” Lopez said. “They're both seniors. One of them is Brian Herrera. And the older one is Diego Olivares. I think they're going to be a good base for whatever we can do. Whether we're going to be successful or not this year is going to depend a lot on those two guys. Not just skill related, but in keeping the team together, continuing with the good vibes.”

Practices for the upcoming season began in the last week of February.

“I think we're going to be better than last year,” Lopez said. “I saw a few players struggling with injuries and this year they're healthy. We're a little bit healthier than last year, so that's gonna make a big difference. We showed up to the jamboree last year missing a few key players, and now we have everybody, so that’s going to make a difference as well.”

Last season went well for the team, Lopez said. The Warriors qualified for the 1A State Boys Soccer Tournament, advancing to the quarterfinals after defeating Columbia (White Salmon) in the second round. Wahluke lost to Seattle Academy, the eventual state champion, 2-0 in the quarterfinals.

“We made a few mistakes at the end. I think we didn’t prepare enough for the state competition according to how we approached the game,” he said, “But in the end … we lost the district championship in the last play of the game and we had a decent run.”

Lopez outlined some of the priorities for training this season, including a focus on teamwork. 

“We're going to try a different formation so we can be a little bit more aggressive when we have the ball, and then we switching on and off when we lose the ball, so hopefully our transition from defense to offense is a little bit quicker this year; that's what I'm focusing on,” he said. “I think that's gonna be a key for us in order to be more aggressive attacking … This is the last year that I'm gonna have with my full defense. Most of them are seniors, so we're gonna, we're gonna try to make it fun.”

Lopez talked about having to adjust team roles since they lost several key players since last season.

“We lost a centerman who was like our MVP for the league,” Lopez said. “Whatever he provides to the team, he's not replaceable this season, but we're working on it and then the guys who are going to cover for that position, we're going to try to support that position as much as we can with extra numbers, but it's gonna be pretty similar to what we did last year.”

The team had slightly fewer students sign up than last year, but still had good numbers, Lopez said.

“I'm always keeping an eye on the junior high to see what they're looking like, and we are one month away from their season to start and they have almost 70 kids signed up,” Lopez said. “We're on the right path. We're growing, we have the numbers.”

Lopez also said that he is seeing more parent involvement.

“In all my years coaching, this is that year that’s had the most parents attending the parent meetings, and for me that's huge, because parents are getting involved in and we really need that as a community,” Lopez said. “Hopefully we get the support on that side, because I tell my parents everything starts at home.”

Gabriel Davis may be reached at gdavis@columbiabasinherald.com. Download the Columbia Basin Herald app on iOS and Android.

Wahluke Boys Soccer Schedule

March 9 - at Montesano - 12 p.m.

March 12 - at College Place - 6 p.m.

March 14 - vs Othello - 4 p.m.

March 16 - at Wapato - 12 p.m.

March 19 - vs Warden - 4 p.m.

March 21 - at Connell - 6 p.m.

March 23 - vs Mabton - 1 p.m.

March 26 - at Royal - 6 p.m.

March 28 - vs Kiona-Benton - 4 p.m.

April 9 - vs College Place - 4 p.m.

April 11 - vs Ellensburg - 4 p.m.

April 13 - at Warden - 1 p.m.

April 16 - vs Connell - 6 p.m.

April 18 - at Mabton - 6 p.m.

April 23 - vs Royal - 6 p.m.

April 25 - at Kiona-Benton - 6 p.m.


    Wahluke Boys Soccer Head Coach Cele Lopez, left, directs players during practice drills at Wahluke High School.
 
 
    A Wahluke Boys Soccer player dribbles the ball during practice in front of a large “W” on the Wahluke High School soccer field March 4.
 
 
    Soccer players fight for the ball during practice drills outside Wahluke High School for the school’s Boys Soccer team.