Devils collect accolades
GYPSUM – Coaches are starting to notice the Eagle Valley soccer team, and not just in the Western Slope.Following a year in which the Devils advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 4A, three Devils were given postseason honors.Cesar Castillo, who set the Eagle Valley record for goals in a season with 25 this year, was named to the all-league team, and selected as honorable mention for all-state.”I feel pretty good, doing that as a sophomore,” Castillo said. “It gives me a lot of confidence and makes me feel like I’m able to do a lot of things (in the future).”Devils’ defender Kyle Simonett and goalie Trevor Grayson were honorable mention in the Western Slope.”It was great in my senior year to finally get awarded for something,” said Simonett, who moved from midfield to defense early in the season. “I’d always thought I’d be a midfielder because I can run and run, but (coach Chad) Sloniker tried me out at defense. (The award) is a tribute to the athletic conditioning I’ve done.”Grayson saw limited time last year, but played almost every minute in net for Eagle Valley this year.”I think (the awards) mean our team is doing well and progressing, and for me, it’s that I’m growing and becoming a better player,” Grayson said.Sloniker thought there were a few other players on his team who could have been recognized, but was pleased with the three selected.”Those guys absolutely deserve it,” Sloniker said.
As a freshman, Castillo played midfield and was named honorable mention in the league. But Sloniker moved the highly skilled Castillo up front this year, where he found the net at an alarming rate.”I know I can do damage in the center midfield, but I prefer being up top with (fellow striker) Mike Smith,” Castillo said. “We had 40 goals together.”
Castillo earned the respect of opposing coaches all year, which helped him get a nod at the state level.”In my opinion Cesar didn’t have a very good game against Mullen (in the playoffs), but for their coaches to notice him in a 5-0 (loss) was good,” Sloniker said. “And (Steamboat coach) Rob Bohlmann and (Battle Mountain) coach Dave Cope went to the league meeting and had something to do with it. (Cesar) is no longer a secret, and there will be a lot of pressure on him next year. They’ll start marking him tighter. He’ll have a reputation to live up to.”With the Devils returning other scoring threats, opposing teams may have to spread out their defense.”Hopefully it does, and if it doesn’t I’ll get the ball to the open guy,” Castillo said.After this season, Sloniker sat down with Castillo and looked at his goal production. “He had 25, which is awesome. He single-handedly won the Rifle game for us, but you’ve gotta keep it in perspective. He had two goals against the teams on the top half of the league,” Sloniker said. “You need to take those goals and focus on the big game and how you are going to do as a marked man to make that happen.”Castillo agreed.
“This year, every time I didn’t score, we lost, and when I scored we won,” Castillo said. “I’m going to need to do more next year.””It’ll be some good pressure,” Sloniker said. “He’ll step up to it.”
From the beginning of the season, Sloniker focused on maintaining a strong backline. Although Simonett started out in the midfield, he ended up as the centerpiece of a stingy defense.”Our back four had some injuries, and we had a lot of guys back there, but (Kyle) was the one who was solid all year,” Sloniker said. “He had the ethic and desire to make it happen, and I hope it transfers to the freshman class.”Simonett was the only four-year player on this year’s squad, and was happy to see the team do so well after losing 12 players from last year.”Honestly, I didn’t expect us to be this good this year,” Simonett said. “We got some new kids and fielded a really good team. I think there’s more to come.”There look to be several players following in Simonett’s footsteps of playing varsity for four years, including Grayson. Sloniker put Grayson in for a few games freshman year, and Grayson quickly adapted to the high level of play.”I don’t think that kid knows what pressure is,” Sloniker said. “He has incredible focus. His work ethic is incredible. I’m not a goalie coach, and he didn’t get a lot of work in net. His development was something he did on his own, which is a testament to his work ethic.”This summer, Grayson went to a goalie camp and said it helped him work on his angles. Grayson applied what he learned to self-coach in practice this year”I asked coach if I could separate off and do my own stuff,” Grayson said.Growing attraction.
The Devils return all but four players, and thanks to this year’s success, may get a few upperclass additions to the team.”We had a couple players that were juniors this year who were going to play and would have played varsity,” Castillo said. “They’ve been talking to me and asking how much fun this season was, and they said they want to play.”From losing nearly the entire starting team two years ago to bringing back a team that was highly competitive in league play, the Devils have high hopes for next year.”Now I’m starting to feel the pressure that we need to perform,” Sloniker said “It’s no longer acceptable to be the team in the bottom half. I know this is pressure, but that’s what we came here for.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado