The Emporia High School boys soccer team had a heartbreaking end to its season last year.
What was a very young team finished the regular season 10-5-1 and ranked third in their region. But the team lost First Team All-League midfielder Edwin Maciel to a torn ACL the night before the game.
It took a toll mentally on the young team.
“I talked to the guys and I was not trying to make excuses, but a young team will get affected like that because of the lack of experience,” head coach Victor Ibarra said. “It took them a little while to adjust mentally and we were all over them in the second half, but it was too late. I told them if we would have had a day to process the injury and talk about how we were going to adjust, we probably would have won. But at the end of the day, everything happens for a reason and I think the guys will be much more experienced this year considering how young we were last year.”
While nothing is set in stone yet as tryouts are ongoing, Emporia will have a number of key returning players. In addition to Maciel, who will be a junior, senior goalkeeper Diego Reyes and junior midfielder Alex Mosiman will be returning as team captains.
Also returning are senior forward Jefry Linares Centennial League honorable mention, senior midfielder Giovanni Garcia, who is also returning from an ACL injury, and senior defender Rudy Bedolla, who is also a captain and a three-time honorable mention. He’s a player Ibarra feels could make a big impact this season.
“He’s one of our leaders,” Ibarra said. “He’s very talented but he’s kind of been under the radar because he’s been hurt the last couple of years. But I think he has the potential to be one of the best players in the state.”
One key incoming freshman is forward Kevin Magana, who could find his way into the starting lineup.
“He’s adjusting to team and tactical play, but he’s really humble and coachable and a very talented player,” Ibarra said.
Sophomore forward Cobin B’hymer and junior defender Andres Aranda also improved dramatically this summer and could impact the varsity team this season.
The team has had a very thorough summer. They practice almost every day in June and then played in tournaments after the break in July. In June, they played in the Champions League in Kansas City against St. Thomas Aquinas, Olathe East and Blue Valley Northwest. They beat Blue Valley Northwest and Olathe East and tied St. Thomas Aquinas, who is ranked No. 4 in the nation by the United Soccer Coaches Association.
Other tournaments they played in were the Emporia Tournament, the St. Thomas Aquinas Tournament, the (Wichita) Kapaun Mt. Carmel Tournament, and the KC High School Soccer Showcase in Wyandotte County. Ibarra noted that a lot of Emporia guys don’t play club soccer, so this is their way of getting extra reps.
“I told the guys I wasn’t really concerned with the results, but I wanted to see how we played and I thought they continued to improve and play really well as a team,” Ibarra said. “They get to see how competitive it is and how we can compete against the top-tier schools.”
While there was a lot of practice and game action this summer, Ibarra took things easier when it came to conditioning, mostly leaving that up to the players. The goal is to give the kids some extra time to rest, but also to hopefully alleviate some of the injuries that hampered the team a season ago.
“Instead of doing conditioning, we left it up to them so they could have a little bit of a mental break and work on themselves, assuming they’re going to continue to run and condition appropriately for the position they’re looking to try out for,” Ibarra said. “That’s new for me this year because normally we would have a very grueling two-week conditioning period, so I’m trying something different to see if maybe this will help with the injuries from last year.”
That, combined with the game experience players got in tournaments this summer, has Ibarra excited for what’s ahead.
“The guys did so well this summer in terms of being responsible and being held accountable to each other in terms of learning new positions and adjusting to tactical play,” Ibarra said. “We should have everybody returning except for two players with a really good mixture of seniors and younger players. With the results from previous years and the summer, the team is looking to be extremely competitive and hopefully, we’ll have a great team. I’m really excited about what these guys can potentially be.”