The focus of last season was on setting a foundation. This spring and beyond, the Heritage boys soccer team intends to keep building upward until they reach the top floor.
The Timberwolves have turned heads during the opening month of the season with a 6-1-1 record, including 3-0-1 in the 3A Greater St. Helens League under second-year head coach George Moya.
Yet as promising as the start is, a game like Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Mountain View served as a reminder the Timberwolves can’t afford to rest on their laurels.
Mountain View struck first in the 21st minute on Nicholas Ferreira’s header assisted by Emin Music on a cross. Heritage had a quick response just six minutes later when it earned a free kick from the right corner. Pablo Barbosa-Sanchez lofted a pass toward the far post where Omar Ramirez found an opening between two Thunder defenders to head the ball into the net.
The go-ahead goal never came for either team, which was, in part, a credit to goalkeepers Owen Purvis (Mountain View) and Jackson Graham (Heritage), who finished with five and six saves, respectively.
“We’re having a good season so far, but I think we got too comfortable where we’re at,” Barbosa-Sanchez said. “We came in slow, our warm-up was sloppy, everything was sloppy. But I think overall we played good. We finished good. I think we just need to start faster from the beginning, but we’re learning from now on.”
Compared to past seasons, the difference for Heritage entering the 2023 campaign was continuity. When Moya was hired a month before the 2022 season, he became the program’s third head coach in as many years.
With tempered expectations for his first year in the program, the Timberwolves went 6-8-2, finished third in the 3A GSHL and made an appearance in the opening round of the 3A bi-district tournament.
Moya viewed the second year as an opportunity to take a big step forward.
“It started from last year, setting a good foundation and this year, our theme is build on that foundation and actually start getting some results,” he said. “This is a product of a couple seasons. This what we would like to see in season number two and hopefully in season three, we try to get something much better than this season.
“Although this season isn’t over, I think we have a really good opportunity to improve from where we’re at, which is a scary thing for us. It’s just kind of, we haven’t been there in a while. It’s really exciting, we have a good group of guys and if they continue to put in the work, they’ll continue to get the results.”
The plan appears to be right on schedule.
Heritage (6-1-1, 3-0-1) has already matched its win total from last season and sits in first place of the league standings at the halfway mark with victories over Evergreen, Prairie and Kelso. Mountain View (1-6-1, 1-2-1) is the defending league champion.
Barbosa-Sanchez, an All-Region boys soccer team selection last year, highlights the Timberwolves’ core of returning players. They also have 3A GSHL all-league defenders Martin Estrada-Alvarez and Juan Serrano, and forward Donovan Grzelak-Winfrey. Even with the fast start, players and coaches believe they have plenty of room to grow.
“Last year was a rebuild year,” Barbosa-Sanchez said. “We lost a lot of seniors two years ago and this year, the foundation is there. Now we’re just building off of it.”
HERITAGE 1, MOUNTAIN VIEW 1
Goals (assists) — Omar Ramirez (Pablo Barbosa-Sanchez). Goalkeeper saves — Jackson Graham 6. Match standout — Juan Serrano.
Goals (assists) — Nicholas Ferreira (Emin Music). Goalkeeper saves — Owen Purvis 5.
Halftime — 1-1.
JV — Mountain View 3-0.