OTHELLO — The Othello Huskies training is so intense, coach Bernie Garza’s biggest concern is beating up on each other in practice. But that intensity is what he hopes will take the Huskies back to the top of the Central Washington Athletic Conference again this year.
Othello is coming off a frustrating season where it dropped a 1-nil loss at home to Cheney in the loser-out regional match. Despite losing seven seniors to graduation, Garza said this year’s squad has the potential to be better.
“We are, in my opinion, even better than last year. We replaced star goalie Jose Gomez with Miguel Silva,” he said. “Our strengths this year will be our defense and midfield. The weakness will be injuries and surviving the intense practice sessions.”
The Huskies open the 2018 season at Naches Valley on Saturday. They have a non-league game at Ellensburg on Tuesday.
They have a couple of things going for them that they didn’t have a year ago. Senior Chris Melo is coming off a 2A state wrestling championship, where last year he suffered a broken collarbone at the Dream Duals that hampered most, if not all of his soccer season. The 5-foot-4 senior will anchor the defensive formation, along with Sergio Mondragon (sr) and Jovani Espindola (jr).
“We lost seven seniors to graduation and six were starters. So it seems like a very tough hole to dig out of or a rebuilding year. But not really,” Garza said. “Juan Tapia (jr) was a threat at forward and I expect him to be the same this year. He has a great deal of speed up top and I think you’ll see him utilize that again.
“So, in reality we did not lose we got stronger than ever.”
At the midfield, the Huskies return Juan Orozco (sr) and academic state wrestling champion Bernie Garza Jr. (jr). Garza Jr. made the transition from striker scoring sensation as a freshman to the midfield last season and turned into quite the trigger man on the Othello transition.
With Silva in net and a quality defense in front, the Huskies have a chance to improve on last year’s third-place showing.
Defending CWAC champion East Valley is still the team to beat. Grandview and Toppenish are always contenders. Ephrata has a chance to step forward and play into the mix as well.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer fort the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at email@example.com