Written by Paul Hotchkiss |
When any team loses core seniors, that team attempts to find some new players to fill the void; this is called a rebuilding year. This year’s team hoped to get a couple freshmen and some sophomores in the varsity line up. They also condition “bubble guys”, players who’ve shown promise on the JV team the year before. It is very rare, in any sport, for a freshman to start for a high school varsity program, let alone be a star. However, it looks like no one has ever said that in the presence of Juan Avila: this year’s break out freshman stud.
On August 21st of this summer, the team met for the first time, and the coaches began to take notes on both new faces and returning prospects. Freshmen usually take this time to make a first impression and a name for themselves. However, the coaches were well aware of Juan before he even arrived on campus. One of the coaches who heard about all the hype was Coach Ross Demay, “As a coach, with freshmen coming in, you listen to the hype and keep an eye out for that player, but you don’t believe it because you never know how they will take to your system and the level of play from middle school to high school.” Demay would come to find that all the talk of a superstar was true. It would not be long until the whole school would see it as well.
Due to an ankle Injury, Juan was sidelined for the start of pre-season, so his abilities weren’t in the front of Coach Demay’s mind: “Everyone handles varsity time in a different way,” explained Demay, “so I was worried about how he would perform this season.” At the start of the season all was quiet on Avila’s end of the field, but during the fourth game of the year, Juan broke out of his shell. Since that game, he became a scoring machine for the Huskies, netting 7 goals in the first 10 games of the season. Not only did he present a fierce role on the field, he also presented his leadership role off of it. Demay says, “I believe that Juan showed great leadership as such a young player. If he works hard and pushes his teammates, he could lead this team to more success in the next few years”.
After speaking with the Phenom himself it became obvious that, for him, soccer wasn’t just a game… It was so much more than that. “My inspiration to play was that my family is known in Guatemala for being good at soccer, and I didn’t want to be the one to stop the ‘trend’. It wasn’t just to become a soccer star, but also to become a great person on and off the field.” Juan stated. However, It hasn’t been all fun and games for this young superstar. He has faced his fair share of doubters along the path to excellence. He says, “I get criticized a lot. Sometimes they say I’m too slow or not good enough, but those are just reasons to make me continue to push myself so I can prove to those negative people that I am fast enough, that I am good enough. Those people truly are the reasons why I am who I am as an athlete.”
Despite a heartbreaking first round loss in the playoffs, it will be no secret that the Morgan Huskies soccer team will be on an upswing next season. With Juan Avila and the rest of this year’s powerhouse freshman class leading the charge, there seems to be no ceiling for how high this pack of huskies will rise. Perhaps we may see a long lasting stint of dominance arise from what we all believed was a pile of ash. Juan Avila truly is the rookie of the year.