Young Guns: Trojan trio leading turnaround
Often times, when a prep soccer team experiences a dramatic turnaround from one season to the next, it’s due to a senior-laden roster. Not so for the Chase Trojans.
Sophomore Jose Vasquez and freshmen classmates Nube Jimenez and Preston Walker have been at the forefront of the Trojans’ surprising season, notching a combined 78 points through 13 games as Chase sits atop the SMAC standings with a 13-1 conference mark, with a game in hand over Shelby.
“I could see this coming,” said Chase head coach Greg Deshommes. “Each year we have gotten a little better. Chase has only had a soccer team for six years. It takes time to build a program. That is what we are doing now.”
The Trojans have indeed shown improvement over the last several seasons. They have qualified for the playoffs in consecutive campaigns, while posting six wins in 2012. Much of that success can be attributed to Vasquez. He had a stellar freshman campaign with nine goals in 11 matches.
“Last year I had to play more forward and try to score every time I had the ball,” said Vasquez. “I had to dribble the ball from midfield and try to score because we did not have a strong midfield that could pass me the ball. Now with Preston and Nube here, I can drop back in the midfield and get them the ball. I’m much more of a playmaker now and I can show off my skills. It’s more fun to get an assist than it is to score.”
Vasquez is still a threat to score, however, with seven goals this season to go with 18 assists.
“What makes Jose such a special player is they he can still score from the midfield,” said Deshommes. “When players come up to pressure him, he just passes to Nube or Preston. If they stay with them, Jose can also finish. They don’t know what to do. It is nice that Jose has some help this year.”
That help comes in the form of Jimenez and Walker. For Jimenez, who transferred to Chase after spending last season with the Thomas Jefferson junior high team, the decision to become a Trojan was easy.
“I wanted to play with my cousins (Ansoni, Omar, and Miguel Jimenez),” he said. “I have always played with them since I was little. I love playing with my family. Pete (Preston) and Jose are my family now, too. We’re like brothers. We have a connection on the field.”
That connection has paid big dividends for the Trojans so far. Jimenez leads the team in both goals and assists with 33 total points.
“I like to score, but I don’t mind getting an assist either,” said Jimenez. “It feels good to pass to the other guys sometimes, because we are a team.”
Deshommes is quick to praise the team first attitude of his Trojans.
“We have had good players here before but they would play individually. This team is so unselfish and they are really playing together. Players, like Omar Jimenez, (are an example). He gave up his place up front and now plays defense. Omar is a senior and he deserves a lot of credit for being so unselfish.”
Preston Walker completes the Trojan trio and brings a little swagger to the group. He has used his speed to score 10 goals this season to go with 13 assists.
“God has blessed me with speed and I have always been one the fastest players on any team,” said Walker. “When I was three, I scored 16 goals in my first game and I’ve loved soccer ever since.
"I still play soccer against guys who are an age group in front of me on the travel team, so I can continue to get better. Nube and Jose are fast, too. Other teams have a hard time keeping up with us.”
With the speed and other skills the Trojans posses, whispers of a state title can be heard in the hallways of Chase. But Deshommes warns against looking too far ahead.
“We do not want to count our eggs while they are still inside the chicken,” said Deshommes. “We have to take one game at a time and keep improving. The R-S game was good for us. It showed that we could be beaten. It was a good lesson to learn.”
Even though Deshommes may have mixed up his metaphor, his players have gotten the message.
“We are a good team but we can still improve,” Walker said. “We have some big goals for not only this year, but in the future too. As a team, we know we need to focus on the next game. But it’s hard knowing that we can win the conference and state championships.”
Chase has two games left in the regular season and will begin postseason play Oct. 30.