In last week’s edition we learned about the second-half turnaround for the Wilcox girls soccer squad. After starting out league season just 1-5-1, the girls finished 2-3 in their final five games. One of their highlights was a 2-0 win over Lynbrook after having lost to them 5-0 earlier in the season. As it turns out, the boys team enjoyed a strikingly similar turnaround. The boys opened their league season 0-5, but finished with a 3-2-2 record in their final seven contests. In the season finale against Gunn, the Chargers actually earned the lion’s share of possession and scoring chances in a 1-0 defeat.
“Our last seven games, I think we gave up [just] four goals,” recalled Chargers Head Coach Tomas Montes. “And that was not the case in our first half. [Gunn] beat us 7-1 the first time we played them. They handed it to us and today we gave them everything they could handle and more. We missed a penalty kick and otherwise, this is a 1-1 draw. [This season is a] tale of two halves definitely.”
The Wilcox boys improved against almost all of their opponents in the second half. After losing badly to both Saratoga 4-1 and Cupertino 3-0, the Chargers then tied Saratoga 1-1 and beat Cupertino 2-1.
While neither head coach nor players would acknowledge it as a rallying point, the Chargers’ turnaround did come shortly after two senior players voluntarily left the squad. Wilcox’s improvement was notable in the final game. Early on in the season starting goalkeeper Jaxon Hillsinger Roby was forced to defend multiple breakaways each game. Against Gunn on Thursday Roby didn’t have to defend a single wide open opportunity. While it was a sign of good progress for Roby not to have to make too many saves, his coach and teammates were quick to praise the junior keeper’s overall performance this season.
“Fantastic guy, fantastic guy,” repeated senior captain David Gomez, showing emphatic support for his keeper. “Last year I watched him struggle a little bit, but I watched him workout over the summer every single day and he still continues to do that. It shows on the field, he blocked three penalties this season. Can’t ask anything more from him, fantastic player.”
“Jaxon’s pursuit of improvement is pretty relentless,” added Montes. “He just wants to be the best that he can, but his whole drive is to do it for Wilcox, do it for his team. He is the guy who loves what is on the front of the uniform and couldn’t care less what’s on the back of the jersey.”
Along with Roby, other standouts from Wilcox were fellow juniors Pascal Nicoletti and Angel De Jesus Acevedo. Nicoletti provided a fast attack down the wing chasing down long balls and Acevedo showed some dynamic footwork through the midfield.
“On the wings, they are very confident, you can tell they are very skilled players,” chimed Roby on Nicoletti and Acevedo. “We rely on them, wouldn’t be the same without them.”
There was plenty of praise to go around for the Chargers’ second half improvement when speaking with the players at season’s end. While the student athletes deserve the credit for coming together on the field, coach Montes deserves praise for keeping the team from crumbling. Wilcox lost their first 11 games dating back to the preseason and arguably their most skilled player left the team midseason. He simply stopped showing up.
“He’s been an excellent coach, he came through for us this year, his first year,” remarked Roby. “We did better this year than last year, he’s led us to a good season, we pulled through at the end. I’m proud of this team.”