Best foot forward

Soccer team finds success with veteran players

The rush of the win, the excitement of the crowd, everything coming together as all the hard work pays off for the team. These are exactly the things the boys soccer team has felt during their undefeated streak to start off the season, earning them the ranking of 6th in the state.

“I am very proud of how highly ranked our team is,” soccer captain senior Alex Vasilakis said. “We have had struggles with how we have performed in the past, so being highly ranked is a sign of how much we have grown as a team.”

Alex and his team’s rank has been helped by the team barely changing from last season.

“We were fortunate to only lose two seniors from last year, which means nine of our former starters are coming back this year,” Alex said. “Our team has a lot more experience together and we’re able to compete with a lot of these large 6A schools.”

Like Alex, co-captain senior Kelvin Zelaya also sees the potential the Viking boy’s soccer program has this season with their team staying virtually the same, but also remembers that they have to work for what they want. 

“Having almost the same team back means a lot,” Kelvin said. “The same nine people returning is important to us and helps our connection on the field. We are doing very well but definitely still have things to work on that could make us even better. Though we are ranked high, rank is just a rank. We are not really worried about that, we are trying to win district first and stay undefeated.”

The team could not reach their goals without a positive influence like coach Carlos Luna, who is just as excited for this team, especially after coaching many of them since they were in middle school.

“Knowing the boys for so long is a huge part of our team’s family chemistry,” Luna said. “And it’s because of this that I care for every one of them as my own and treat them as my own, making sure they grow up to be fine young men. They know what I expect from them as a Viking student athlete.”

As Kelvin has grown, he has realized what it means to be a team leader. He has found the best ways to support his teammates as they reach for their goals together.

“Being a team captain is an important role,” Kelvin said. ”You have to talk to the team a lot and give them words of advice to support and encourage them. As a leader, I focus on encouraging and pushing my teammates when they need it.”

While Alex works hard to be a good captain for the team, Kelvin also has grown into a role of leadership on the team during his four years at Bryan High. This growth has become noticeable to everyone, especially Coach Luna.

“Kelvin has matured so much,” Luna said. “He’s always been a competitor, and as our second team captain, not only does he bring competitiveness, but leadership, perseverance and support. I’ve known him since fourth grade and I’m very proud of his maturity.”

Alex plays center defense for the team. He works hard at this technical role to ensure that his teammates and coaches can trust him to stop the opponents.

“It’s a very stabilizing role,” Alex said. “I’m not doing all the super flashy stuff or scoring a bunch of goals, but it’s more securing the team and keeping the win. I also enjoy the tactical parts of the position, which I find extremely fulfilling.”

Alex’s love for his position and soccer has helped him through challenges that many young players face. He has learned how to make the best out of many situations throughout his time in soccer.

“I’ve definitely grown as a player by working through adversity and working with different people,” Alex said. “Working with people who I’ve never played with before and then getting that chemistry and getting that teamwork going has really been a challenge, but I like competing against that challenge.”

With the high ranking the team has gained comes hard work from all players involved. Alex understands this, and continues to push himself by not only playing for Bryan soccer, but also a team in Houston, all of which have helped him learn to deal with the pressures of the sport.

“Being able to work under pressure when you’re in the games helps me adapt to that pressure. Working consistently is also a big one,” Alex said. “I’ve also learned about adaptability and working with a tight schedule because, if you don’t have all the free time in the world, being able to adapt is very valuable.”

As Alex has grown up playing soccer, he has had to overcome his biggest obstacle within the game and learn not to let things that happened in the past affect how he performs in the present.

“The most challenging part of soccer is definitely the mentality,” Alex said. “Sometimes if we lose a game or we perform badly individually it can really get in our head and that’s something that I used to really struggle with. If I would screw up once or twice in the game I would be thinking about it for the rest of the game which would cause a lot more mistakes on my part. Developing a kind of mental toughness to essentially forget about making a mistake and just keep playing is probably the biggest challenge I faced. “

While transitioning from high school to college, Alex will remember what soccer has taught him about how to deal with things in a more positive way.

“I don’t want to say I’ve stopped worrying about mistakes but when a mistake happens I kind of move on from it,” Alex said. “I learn from it but I move on and I don’t dwell on something in the past.” 

Alex’s love for soccer has been with him his whole life. Even when he was young, he still had a passion for soccer.

“The game itself is just really fun,” Alex said. “I enjoy it and I’ve been doing it since I could walk. I love the whole community and culture that surrounds it. I love all the guys who I play with so really I’m just hanging out with them and doing something I love.”

As the team moves forward in the season with bright leaders and a connected team they must balance their drive for the game with responsibilities that come from school. Coach Luna wants his players to remain focused on their school work while also giving their best on the field.

“Our team mentality has been focused on three things the entire year, schoolwork, district, and playoffs,” Luna said. “Considering how young we were last year, and seeing our performance throughout last year, we felt like we still had more in us. School will always be first. But we are coming along and growing each week, getting better, stronger and faster. Our goal is competing for district and moving on to playoffs while taking care of the schoolwork.The expectation remains the same. Stay committed, stay disciplined, and keep believing.”