BOYS SOCCER: Chambersburg trying to forge its own identity in 2015
CHAMBERSBURG >> As tempting as it is to think back to last year and the fine season put together by the Chambersburg boys soccer team – perhaps the best ever in school history – a new season is days away.
And for 2015, the Trojans have a new coach, will play without several key players who graduated, and won't be looking into the past ... too much.
Senior forward Erik Espinoza said, "It will be hard to live up to last year, but we have players with the drive and motivation we need and that will rub off on the younger players."
"I think last year motivates us and gives us something to reach for," senior midfielder Eric Dixon said. "I think after you win something, you want to win it again and again."
Corey Grove, who took over as coach when Guy Furfaro resigned, said, "I think the guys should have gained confidence from last year, because they set a precedent of where we should be every year. But we don't want to compare ourselves – we have different personnel and different goals."
But those goals are set high, because Chambersburg still possesses plenty of talent, and with a maximum of only four seniors starting, the team is poised to not have last year be a one and done.
Espinoza will likely play a big role this year. Coming off a 17-goal season, he'll be the focus of opponents' defenses. He is likely to be paired with a new player, Rafael Bonilla, up top.
"I like our situation with our forwards," Espinoza said. "Rafael and I formed an instant connection."
The Trojans are likely to start with a 3-5-2 system, but Grove wants his team to be able to switch to a 4-3-3 when needed. One problem is that midfield mainstay Rene Quintanilla will miss roughly half the season after having a recent surgery.
"We'll have to switch things up without Rene," Grove said. "He's a big part of the midfield."
Nathan Maynard, Dixon, John Ramirez and Griffin Redding are set for the center midfield spots, with Joel Pineda, Chuy Munoz, Connor Gniewek and Bonilla playing outside. Maynard is the only returning starter from that group and he contributed four goals and five assists.
Grove said, "From the midfield up I think we look great, especially when Rene gets back. Erik is a stud. I think he can be one of the best forwards ever at Chambersburg, and he works just as hard on and off the field."
Grove's concerns lie at the defensive end.
"We have to tighten up in the back, and keep our shape," he said. "We're working on the defense one day at a time. It's like my dad (Steve Grove, former Trojan coach) always said, 'You have to keep that zero on the board, because if you do, the worst you can do is tie.' If you're not prepared in our division, you'll just get run over."
The defensive group includes Ryley Reed, who started some last year, Victor Canel, Tyler Fritz, Jacob Stouffer, Jake Hill and a newcomer, Inigo Macias.
Grove said, "Inigo's from Mexico and he's pretty good. He will definitely help us."
The goalkeeper position is still being contested, with Chandler Schur and Jacob Dougal battling to see who starts between the pipes.
Grove, who played at Chambersburg, understands the challenge he faces.
"I know how competitive this division is; we beat each other up every night," he said. "But my main focus has to be on my boys. We can only control what we can control, and if we play well, I think we can do OK. I still have very high expectations for this team, even though we still have a long way to go."
NOTES >> The Trojans won the Mid Penn Commonwealth Division last year, the school's first boys soccer championship since 1969 ... The team was 16-4-1, with three of those losses coming in overtime or penalty kicks ... Paul Unruh and Logan Kuhn are the assistant coaches and Greg Figueroa is a volunteer coach.
Trojans at a glance
Coach: Corey Grove, first year.
Last year: 16-4-1 (11-2-1 and won Mid Penn Commonwealth Division), lost Hershey on OT in the MPC championship, lost to Lower Dauphin in PKs in District 3-AAA quarterfinals.
Returning starters: Erik Espinoza (sr., for, P.O. first team all-star, 17 goals, 2 assists), Nathan Maynard (jr., mid, P.O. Honorable Mention, 4, 5), Rene Quintanilla (jr., mid, 4, 1), Ryley Reed (jr., def).
Other top players: Eric Dixon (sr., mid, 3 goals), John Ramirez (jr., mid, 2 goals), Victor Canel (jr., def), Tyler Fritz (sr., def), Jacob Stouffer (jr., def), Inigo Macias (jr., def), Jacob Hill (jr., def), Joel Pineda (jr., mid), Rafael Bonilla (jr., mid/for), Connor Gniewek (so., mid), Chandler Schur (sr., goalkeeper), Jacob Dougal (jr., goalkeeper), Griffin Redding (fr., mid), Chuy Munoz (fr., mid).
Season opener: Tuesday, at Central Dauphin, 7:30.