As we transition to fall sports, Kyle Daubs interviews top area athletes who are preparing for their respective sports. These athletes will share their individual goals, team desires and, sometimes, the challenges COVID-19 has created in getting set for the season. Like you all, we are excited at the possibilities for fall sports next month.
By Kyle Daubs
As far as Gavin Gonzalez is concerned, everyone has been dealt the same hand.
Due to COVID-19, club soccer is non-existent this year, which means that all teams have to rely on themselves to stay ready for the upcoming soccer season.
“Everyone has the same disadvantages going into the fall,” said Gonzalez. “There isn’t going to be as much playing time compared to the years before. Everyone is going into this year with the same outlook. With the whole quarantine, it means we just have to work extra hard to get back to where we were.”
Gonzalez was a Second-Team All-Apollo selection as a junior last season on a 21-2-3 squad that fell to Chatham-Glenwood in the IHSA regional championship. Gonzalez has been busy playing baseball for Mattoon American Legion Post 88 this summer, but claims that members of the soccer team have been trying to keep pace in order to be ready for the fall.
“We have been able to improvise with small groups,” said Gonzalez. “We have relied on ourselves instead of being led by a coach because of the rules. Older kids and younger kids have tried to get together, play soccer, have fun, and make the best of a situation.”
The Green Wave will have to find a way to replace First-Team All-Apollo and All-State midfielder Shane Ghere, who also holds the record for career assists at MHS. The team also lost First-Team selection Mason Wright and Second-Team selection Jakob Weder to graduation.
“Shane was one of the best players on the field all the time,” said Gonzalez. “It’s impressive for someone to be All-State coming out of Mattoon. It’s going to hurt. A lot of guys looked to him for advice whenever it came to composure or getting out of a situation.”
Since the IHSA flipped to the next phase along with the state of Illinois, the auditions will begin. According to Gonzalez, there a couple of names to keep an eye on this summer.
“Within our group, we have a lot of underclassman that are going to need to step up,” said Gonzalez. “It is going to feel like a new defense and offense. Quincy Hamilton, Caden Fultz, Trent Hettinger, and Andrew Birch are just a few. It’s going to come down to how well we can work together.”
Mattoon finished third last year in the Apollo Conference, trailing Mount Zion and champion Mahomet-Seymour. Despite losing a chunk of offensive firepower, Gonzalez said the team still has high hopes for the year.
“Our goal is to always win a regional and finish top of the conference,” said Gonzalez. “Of course, you lost seniors, but so does everybody else. It’s just time for the next class to show up. The underclassman, juniors, and our seniors control our own way.”
TOMORROW: Cole Hoover, EIU football
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