Pam Pack looking for players to step up

Published 5:20 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

There are a lot of open slots in Washington’s starting lineup. It lost six starters off of last year’s team that made it to the fourth round of the state playoffs. The Pam Pack has endured turnover in past years, but three of those six losses are on defense.

With that, it will need an influx of talent to be able to continue its winning ways. New players and those coming up from the junior-varsity squad will need to make strides this season, but the success will start with the leaders returning.

Cody Pinkham is the lone player with starting experience on defense. He’ll have goalkeeper Kevin Avilla as Washington’s last line of defense. Those two will be important from a skill standpoint, but their communication will be important in bringing along less experienced teammates.

Oscar Espinoza has been tabbed as someone to help facilitate the Pam Pack’s offense. He and fellow junior Tim Anglim will need to provide scoring. Both proved they have the skill and understanding of the game to be valuable in the middle and up top.

“Those guys, they’re going to be the rocks on this team,” coach Jim Kozuch said. “We’re really relying on these guys. We don’t have a lot of depth. We don’t have a lot of seniors this year. Those guys specifically are going to mean a lot to the team.”

Less depth means Kozuch is working more on conditioning. Key players will need to be able to play more minutes. Newcomers and returning players alike will need to show they can handle it if they want to see the field.

“This is not an option,” Kozuch said. “You’re not going to have the chance to come and play for us if you’re not going to be in shape. These guys are working their butts off. We’re going to be in great shape this season, and our starters are going to have a lot of opportunities because of our lack of depth.”

Some of those newer to the Pam Pack soccer program are progressing nicely in the preseason. Jesus Luiz Hernandez was loosely familiar with the team after trying out last year. He didn’t make it onto the roster, but came out again this summer.

He has thrived thus far. According to Kozuch, his conditioning has improved leaps and bounds, and he’s dazzled with an impressive scoring touch.

“Obviously, he’s got a lot of heart. He came out here last year and wasn’t in shape,” Kozuch said. “He didn’t make the cut last year, but he came out here really fighting and he’s looked great out here. I think he’s going to have a great opportunity to work his way, possibly, into the starting lineup.”

Midfielder Marcos Bolivar is a player that has a chance to transition from the bench role he had last year to starting this season.

“I really think he’s going to be a weapon for us. I think he’s got all the tools to be a great player,” Kozuch said. “He’s got good size. He’s got good speed. He’s a smart player. I definitely expect big things from him.”

Bolivar has a sort of family tradition to follow. Kozuch coached both of his older brothers, who he said were great.

Washington will have no time to settle in once the season begins. Three of its first six games are against either Rose or Conley. Conference play opens Sept. 11 at Greene Central.