| Wood boys soccer awaits first home game following 8-5 preseason
The Will C. Wood High School boys soccer team may be 8-5 prior to league play, but they’re still waiting for their first game at home.
Since the preseason began for the young soccer team on Nov. 21, the Wildcats have seamlessly adopted to their unique situation much like a band on tour, with stops ranging from Hercules and Kentfield to Stockton and Lodi.
But that certainly hasn’t slowed them down on the pitch. The Wildcats will enter the Monticello Empire League Jan. 12 (vs. Napa) with the second most preseason wins and the second most goals scored (31); trailing Vintage High School in both regards.
Although the constant slate of away games was the original plan for the preseason, head coach Jorge Ruiz-Chavez was informed earlier in the week that Will C. Wood’s High School’s new field wouldn’t be ready by the anticipated Feb. 1 completion date.
Amid the Wildcats’ 13-game preseason — in which the team has either carpooled or taken a bus on occasion — Wood has logged more than 860 miles. But while that’s a far cry from the 400-plus miles traveled for crosstown rival Vacaville, the dedicated parents haven’t only played the part of chauffeur but have also washed more road jerseys than usual.
Along with the parents for both varsity and junior varsity teams, Jorge’s wife, Leanne, has stepped up during the hectic winter months. “One of the highlights for me as a coach, is seeing the support of the parents,” Ruiz-Chavez said. “They’ve been so understanding, and so has my wife. Before a game in Stockton, she had made sandwiches for all the JV kids because she knew they would be coming back late after watching the varsity game. Those little things make the kids feel like they aren’t only a part of the program but a part of my family.”
The distinctive challenge has also been looked at as an opportunity for the second year coach after Wood finished 3-12-1 a season ago.
Following a frustrating season filled with rain outs and limited practice time last year, the growing sense of camaraderie has taken shape on the road and in the classroom for the team’s study hall sessions that have allowed 75 percent of players to earn a 3.5 GPA or higher.
“Every single one of the seniors has taken on a sophomore or freshman fresh under their wing and bonded with them. It’s created by the way we practice, our meetings at lunch, study hall sessions and during our road trips … It’s about changing the culture of Wood soccer and this group has done a great job of that as a whole.”
One of the aforementioned moments to bond came in mid-December as the majority of the varsity team boarded the Larkspur Ferry, perused Pier 39 in San Francisco and ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. But while it was a trip Ruiz-Chavez knew particularly well, this was a first-time experience for the entire group of Wildcats.
For Wood co-captain and midfielder Keshav Clay, who was forced to sit out the majority of last year due to a pair of injuries, moments like this have made this season that much more special. They’ve also allowed him to realize that freshman teammate Kobe Rolling has special talents when it comes to the card game Uno.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do this year,” Clay said. “Not everyone could go on the trip but everyone that went had a good time and we shared a lot of laughs. We were all playing Uno against each other on our phones. Kobe Rolling won the most games but we’re pretty sure he was cheating.”
As for what awaits Clay and his team in league, the focus for him is centered directly on the wins and losses. Although a few home games would be a nice way to closeout the season, having a place to graduate is a welcoming site on the steadily approaching horizon.
“As far as the home games go, I’d love to host some on the new field,” Clay said. “It would be a great thing to be able to do. But as far as that goes, if it doesn’t happen it wont be the end of the world. We’ll still be able to graduate from the stadium.”
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