Two years ago the Wilcox Chargers soccer team finished the 2016-17 season with a 2-13-2 record. Thirteen losses and just two ties out of 17 games — pretty much as low as it can get for a high school soccer team.
A 180-degree turnaround would take just two years.
After finishing 7-6-4 in 17 games in 2017-18, the Chargers would lose a grand total of just three matches out of 22 games in 2018-19. Wilcox finished the season with a fantastic final record of 14-3-5.
The Chargers’ impressive campaign came to a disappointing end on Saturday, though, losing to Sacred Heart Cathedral in the CCS Division III Championship by a final of 3-1. While Wilcox players, coaches and fans were certainly hoping for a better outcome in the final, the loss takes nothing away from an overall historic season for the Chargers. Their two CCS playoff wins this season were the first of their kind in school history.
After the game Wilcox Head Coach Tomas Montes spoke at length about the incredible season.
“On a lot of fronts this was a dream season,” remarked the coach. “We started off with second place in the Homestead Cup, went to the championship game there. We had a game against Santa Clara at Avaya Stadium. We took second place in our league and reached the title game in CCS. By all accounts that is a great season. The thing I love about these guys the most is they never quit, it could have been 10-1 and they would have played just as hard.”
In Saturday’s finale the Chargers once again had numerous chances to score as the possession was pretty much equal between them and the Fighting Irish. Sacred Heart would get the benefit of a couple of fortunate bounces shortly following set pieces that gave them a 2-0 lead.
Wilcox found a way to claw back to within a goal in the final five minutes. Emael Talavera got loose behind the defense and his hard cross found the back of the net, deflecting off an opposing defender. Less than a minute later though Sacred Heart scored a third goal to squash the Chargers’ hopes of a miracle comeback.
The Chargers managed to stay in the game thanks in large part to the combination of Talavera on the right flank, working with midfielder Javier Lopez and right back Ali Salehi. The right side of the Chargers was the strength of their attack throughout the playoffs and particularly in Saturday’s championship game.
“That was our game plan to attack the right side,” remarked Montes on the extremely effective play on that side of the field. “From scouting and what not, it appeared that was going to be our best entry point and it was. With Emael’s speed we wanted to utilize that as well.”
“We work together well, we work hard at practice,” said Talavera on his chemistry with Lopez and Saleh. “I drop back if he goes up and if I go up, he stays back. We really read each other well and that’s how it’s supposed to go.”
“We practice together a lot and [that] just ends up working well in the games,” added Lopez on the chemistry before remarking about the season as a whole. “This season was unbelievable. Everybody is in the game all of the time, even if they are on the bench, they are all in it 100 percent.”
Even with their loss in the CCS final, there was a chance the Chargers might end up qualifying for the state playoffs. Unfortunately for Wilcox supporters, they did not end up getting into the tournament.