It’s not often that a team can be perfect, and last year Northwest’s boys soccer team was just that, finishing 21-0 with a state championship. Now the Grizzlies try to defend their title with a whole new team.
“We have a team like we had last year, and now a new team, that causes a lot of stress, because every team is out to beat you,” coach Bobby Bribiesca said. “Every team wants to beat a state-championship team, and we know that. We’re going in to every game mentally prepared for those challenges. The guys that I have right now are very capable of getting good results.”
The loss of 13 players from last year’s team has definitely made a dent in Northwest’s roster, but Bribiesca is confident those positions will be filled.
“Everybody who came out this year, they saw all the players leave so they’re being aggressive and competing, which is how I like it, people competing for positions,” Bribiesca said. “It’s a rebuilding year, I guess you could call it, but it’s Northwest tradition so they work very hard.”
All-City sweeper Jake Carter will return to carry Northwest’s defense after helping to defend 14 shutouts and allowing nine goals last year. Behind Carter is goalkeeper Hayden Johnson.
“(Johnson) talks to me, he sees the field better than I can, he tells me where people are at, and keeps our defense strong. He knows what he’s doing,” Carter said. “I’d say we’re good at defense. We lost a few players but that won’t hurt us too badly.”
Northwest’s offense will rely heavily on the midfield and speed from its forwards. The Grizzlies’ midfield and forwards move as a unit to attack, and try to send passes through the defense from the outside midfielders. Nick Cramer leads the midfield and Caleb Mills leads the offense.
“We all work together and we all talk and work for each other. I think one thing that will set us apart from other teams this year is that we work for each other,” Mills said. “We all move together, we move up the field together and we’re all a team on the offense, and that’s what a lot of teams don’t have.”
Bribiesca’s theme for this season is “to defend a championship,” and despite the loss of players from last year, Northwest will depend on tradition.
“A lot of the team sat bench last year and watched the stars play,” Mills said. “So from sitting there and watching a team as great as last year’s team, a lot of us are wanting to have our own turn. It’s our time.”