Not many people gave Spanish Springs much of a chance heading into the regional tournament, but the Cougars relished the underdog role and knocked off both No. 1 seeds en route to claiming the school’s first boys soccer Northern 4A crown.
So what happened in the past couple weeks that sparked the run to a championship and a state tournament berth?
“We just played with our hearts and we bonded as a team,” junior captain and leading scorer Irvin Somera said.
The other two captains, Matt Munley and Tony Murillo, are both seniors and will get to end their high school careers with a bang. It’s especially nice considering the Cougars were one and done a year ago when they qualified for the postseason.
“It feels really good. To go out as regional champs is pretty sweet,” Munley said.
Coach Rob Moreland chose each player as a captain for different reasons. Munley is the vocal leader who keeps everything organized in the back and everyone pumped up.
Moreland said Somera is a nice, trustworthy kid who brings a calmness to the midfield. When he has the ball, the coaching staff knows play will settle down and be less frantic.
Murillo has brought a togetherness to the team and helped bond the Cougars.
However, all three are similar in what convinced Moreland to give them a leadership role.
“I thought the other kids looked up to their work rate. They don’t talk a lot of stuff. They do it,” Moreland said. “They’re more of the doers and not the talkers.”
Somera and Munley make up part of a very strong Cougars midfield that is responsible for most of the offense as well as contributing to the defense.
While the offense gets a lot of the attention due to its ability to put up goals in a hurry, the defense has to be equally strong due to the formation the Purple and White utilize.
Many teams will use four defenders in the back, but Spanish Springs only has three guys on defense. It makes it more challenging, but guys like Murillo have really stepped up and developed a confidence in the second half of the season.
“Everybody helps each other out and we pretty much pressure cover. If someone gets by them, we have someone there to help out,” Murillo said. “We have to talk a lot. We need to know where the other forwards are.”
Spanish Springs (12-4-3) won’t know its state semifinal opponent until tonight when Bishop Gorman takes on Del Sol in a play-in game between the two Southern region runners-up.
But no matter what, the Cougars will still be looked at like underdogs and they are fine with that.
“It’s not bad. If you’re really good and you lose, it looks bad. If you’re the underdog and you win, then it’s more exciting,” Somera said.