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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Owls expect to maintain standard

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Senior Isaac Phillips returns as the Owls' starting goalkeeper.
(Chris Allen/Democrat-News)
After losing four all-state players from a 24-4 NCMC co-championship squad that finished fourth in the MSHSAA Class 2 Championships, the Marshall boys' soccer team was bound to suffer a dip last year.

The drop-off was relatively small, though, for a program which has maintained a high standard ever since reaching the Final Four in back-to-back campaigns in 2003-04. New Owls head coach Justin Van Winkle was an assistant on those squads and has observed similar traits among the recent players, including the 44 on the current roster.

"The love to be there," he explained. As coaches, "that makes our jobs easier. They listen and they understand what they're doing."

That even extends down to the 15 freshmen, which Van Winkle knows "is good for keeping the program up."

Marshall returns seven starters -- including two players who had roles on that state-qualifying team -- along with "some seniors moving in that will step right up," according to Van Winkle.

Van Winkle said the focus is "coming all together as a team," and not playing as individuals -- which is a problem he has not encountered during fall practice. "We'll put out 11 strong players, I know that."

The greatest challenge will be replacing the 22 goals and 11 assists rung up by all-state midfielder Alan Magana, which Van Winkle expects to be a cumulative production by several players.

"We'll be very good at possession, controlling the ball," Van Winkle said. "We have an attacking mindset."

Returning to the net will be senior Isaac Phillips, who posted three shutouts after taking over for his brother, all-stater Jacob.

"He knows his game well," Van Winkle said. "He can help control the defense back there, get them marked up."

The middle of the back line will be manned by senior Wilbur Palma -- a starter on the 2010 club, who Van Winkle said will "fill out a leadership role" -- and junior Chris Medrano, a part-time starter last year.

The outside defender positions will consist of varsity newcomers, including fundamentally-sound senior Jeremy Sporleder, a transfer from Maryville. Juniors Robert Ramirez, Jimmy Sandoval and Emilio Trujillo will be in the rotation.

The key to Marshall's success will be center-midfielders, and there are two good ones in senior Brian Arevalo -- another holdover from the state squad -- and sophomore Isai Trujillo, who debuted with a six-goal rookie campaign at forward.

"I think they can control the midfield and help on defense," Van Winkle said.

The experience of Palma and Arevalo has been noticeable.

"They're been great with pushing" the younger players, "getting them ready to play," Van Winkle noted. "They know what we need to do to get back there."

The Owls have skilled outside mids in sophomores Roberto Hernandez and Jorge Tobar.

Senior Ben Valencia, also with six goals a year ago, is back at forward -- where his grinding, hard-nosed play complements the other attackers.

"We can put him anywhere," Van Winkle said.

Juniors Kevin Morales and Bryan Sandoval, along with freshman Francisco Rivera, should also provide pressure on opposing defenses.

Marshall has a mixture of veterans and youth, the latter who have to understand that "we have to keep playing strong from Game 1," Van Winkle said.

"I think we can be competitive, especially in conference," Van Winkle asserted. "They've got the experience and know what it takes.

"I think we can play with just about anyone in our class," he declared.

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