When asked to name the integral part of a great team, every person will give a different answer: Some will say hard work, some will say talent, some will say team chemistry. The last will be one to watch on the CHS boys’ and girls’ soccer teams this year as new coaching strategies and teammates will test how well the teams work together.
Last year, Padres saw their boys’ soccer team go undefeated in league play, only to be eliminated in the first round of the CCS playoffs. This year, a new coaching strategy has been put in place to ensure that the team will make it further.
In his second year acting as varsity coach, Artie Cairel has stressed the importance of individual play, stating that team members should fight for their starting spots on the team. Cairel, who coached for CSUMB and the United States National Team, believes that this competition is vital to his coaching strategy.
“It’s a proven recipe of success,” Cairel says. “We’re trying to find the best mix of ingredients to fulfill that recipe.”
Although unorthodox, the strategy has paid dividends thus far in the season. Seniors Archer Sheldon and Zach Haines received playing time in the 0-0 tie against Windward School, impressing senior team captain Terak Hornik and others.
“They’re well on their way to stealing starting spots,” Hornik comments.
The players refer to this as “stealing,” but to them it lacks the negative connotation; stealing implies only that the players must be aggressive to earn their roles.
“We’re being competitive and trying to frustrate people in a positive way,” Hornik adds.
Even though the competition is intended to be friendly, its grueling nature can sometimes lead to some animosity between teammates.
“If you want to play, you’ve got to work for it,” junior Joaquin Buenrostro says. “If you want to take someone’s spot, you have to work harder.”
It’s unclear whether the strategy has been affecting the team’s performance in a meaningful way, as the team remains winless through Dec. 2, going 0-1-2 in the preseason. League play looks to be a little easier on the Padres.
“It’s going to be tougher than last year, but I still think we can win league,” senior Leo Gonzalez-Smith says.
With the departure of players like All-MTAL players Benek Robertson and Daniel Zito, the team looks to fill those spots with up-and-comers like sophomore Finn Mendez, who switched positions to fill the hole left by MTAL Offensive Player of the Year Benji Dansky.
For Cairel, Dansky’s departure is another source of competition for Mendez.
“I’m giving Finn an opportunity to live up to the standard that left us,” Cairel explains.
On the girls’ side, the challenge to team chemistry comes not from a new coaching strategy, but from newly arrived players and coaches.
The preseason has been tough on the girls as well, finishing the first two games with an 0-1-1 record, including a 4-1 loss against North Salinas on Nov. 29. Although the start is not ideal, the team feels confident that they can improve.
“It’s hard to start a season off with new players and new coaches and new systems,” senior Alexandria Staehle says, “but all of the girls really take direction well.”
After losing several seniors, the team is relying on an influx of young talent, which makes team chemistry an area for concern.
“It started out a bit rocky,” junior Jessica Purdom admits about the dynamic, “but it’s coming together well, and now there’s a real sense of trust on the team.”
The girls also have had fewer games than the boys thus far, meaning less time for the team members to bond. One factor that unites the team is a desire to win, and the slow start has only made that desire stronger.
“We’ve made it a point not to take it as a negative and start off the season with that fueling our fire,” junior Grace Lee says.
Also troubling to the team is the stigma that comes along with playing for any Carmel athletic team.
“People think of Carmel as this place where we’re really entitled, but we’re really trying to show the other team that we’re out here to work hard, and we deserve it just as much as anyone else,” Staehle says.
The girls will try to return to league playoffs after placing fourth last year with a 6-5-3 league record.
The girls host North County on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 3:30 p.m., while the boys host Sacred Heart Prep on Saturday, Dec. 10, at 1:30 p.m.