Consistency when it comes to winning is always a good thing. For the Perry boys’ soccer team, a third straight state appearance would definitely check off that box.
With the young soccer season kicking into gear on April 2, the Bluejays are setting their goals at another trip in late May to Des Moines.
If this young squad comprised of mostly underclassmen, 10 out of 15 players, do what their predecessors have done, it would mark three state appearances and five in the past six years.
Perry’s head coach Gary Overla is excited about his team’s chances, but emphasized that his team needs to take it one match at a time. They shouldn’t expect that familiarity will get them to the big show.
“Hopefully we don’t have players who are looking ahead and thinking to themselves that Perry just gets invited back to the state tournament each year,” he said. “I hope they realize that it is going to take hard work, some blood, sweat, and tears in order to make it back, just like it did in 2014,15, 17 and 18.”
Overla’s 2018 team made it to state last season, despite finishing the regular season with an 8-10 record. That team found themselves in the midst of a title match after completing a trifecta of wins by outscoring their adversaries, 19-2.
Their improbable journey into the Class 2-A state tournament ended in the first round with a 2-1 defeat against Pella High School.
At the scoring helm this season are last year’s top goal scorers juniors Ever Tobar and Tomas Lopez, along with sophomore Mario Saldana. The trio combined for 25 goals with both Tobar and Saldana scoring nine each, while Lopez added seven.
Overla and his coaching staff are hoping the three can take the necessary next step that they feel will propel Perry to an extended postseason.
“Our expectations for those athletes would be to develop themselves as finishers, and not just guys who get open and can occasionally score,” he said.
Defensively the team will be without their top goalie from the previous seasons in Anthony Aragon. In his final season, Aragon posted a goal against average rating of almost 98 percent, coupled with allowing just 12 goals in the 16 games he played in.
The search for his replacement began on March 11 when the Bluejays held this season’s first practice.
“At the moment the two athletes that are competing for that position are Mike Escheverria (senior) and Tony Burgos (junior),” Overla said. “As the season gets underway others may step up and challenge to be put in that position.”
Last year between the two Bluejays, only Escheverria logged some game action. In 15 games, started seven, he allowed 11 goals, which netted him a goal against an average rating of 1.54.
Regardless of who gets tasked with protecting the net, the head coach acknowledged that it will take a lot more of a defensive and offensive presence to earn some “W’s.”
“One of the main reasons that we lost a couple of close contests last year was our lack of finishing ability,” Overla said. “There were numerous occasions where shots went wide or worse, straight into the goalie’s chest. We get a great deal of opportunities, we just don’t take advantage of those opportunities when they present themselves. We need to be much more efficient when it comes to scoring.”
Overla’s chance to see what his team can do, what their chances are and who will step up this season, might be decided quicker than he anticipated. The squad opened up the season with three games in less than a week.
“All the teams that make it to the state tournament are quality teams,” he said.
“So what might help us to win the tournament? Definitely maintain focus as a team, the last two weeks of the year can become a real grind; remain committed to the game plan, don’t act as individuals, keep the team in the forefront of our thoughts; a little luck never hurts.”
After playing back-to-back road games on April 2 and 3, the Bluejays are back home on Monday, April 8 for a contest against Des Moines East High School.