“They are the rocks. They are the confidence,” Spanish Springs boys soccer coach Rob Moreland said. “They are who guys turn to when things aren’t going right.”
Last weekend, Spanish Springs punched its ticket back to the state tournament after qualifying in 2010. Seniors Jonathan Garcia (midfielder) and Manny Medina (defender) are the only returning starters from the state squad. They were freshmen.
Spanish Springs lost in the first round of the 2010 state tournament, 2-0.
“I was nervous,” Garcia, who is referred to as ‘Spikey’ on the team, said of the state game. The nickname has followed Garcia since he was child after regularly rocking spiked hair. “Freshman, playing varsity, starter, there were a lot of nerves going through my mind.”
Garcia was not the lone half of the duo with freshman-campaign butterflies.
Medina’s first varsity minutes of his career came in a preseason tournament at Galena. Moreland subbed Medina in at sweeper.
“His (Medina’s) eyes were this big,” said Moreland, holding both hands in front of eyes in the ‘c’ shape. “He got burned and he got burned and his eyes were big.”
Since overcoming their freshman jitters, Garcia and Medina have become fixtures on one of the most dominant boys soccer programs in the North Region. The Cougars have played in three North title games in the last four years and won the High Desert League this year with a record of 17-1-2.
Their lone loss of the season came, Saturday, in the North title game against Wooster, 2-1.
With the moxie of a starting quarterback, Medina did not say the loss built a revenge-minded internal fire. But rather it showed what the Cougars need to improve on.
“I think they have come quite a ways,” Moreland said of the duo’s maturation. “They’re quality.”
Garcia and Medina both plan to play collegiately. Garcia has been in contact with the University of California, Davis. Medina remains unsure but has received interest from a few schools, including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona.
The two-year absence from the state tournament, after qualifying as freshmen, was frustrating for both four-year starters, but both feel better equipped in their second go-round, as seniors.
“I am more confident this time,” Garcia said.
The puffed chest was not around at the start of the season, however, as neither beamed with copious confidence.
“First, when we started, I felt a little off, wondering how it (the season) was going to be,” Medina said. “But as we kept going, everyone was improving and getting better.”
“It (team’s success) was a surprise to me. The first time I saw the team, I was like ‘oh, we are going to have some troubles,’” Garcia said. “But then throughout we started getting used to each other.”
With an experience-aided hop to their step, a little swagger, Medina and Garcia are prepared to make a run at the state title. They are two of 15 seniors on the roster.
The Cougars open with Eldorado (19-0-1) in the state semifinals, Friday, at Carson.
“I just hope they have solid games and help everybody else out,” Moreland said of his experienced combo. “We look to them for leadership and if the chips go down, we look to them for support and confidence. I think they will do that.”
They finished the regular season undefeated. They won the league title. Now, they want it all.