|Senior Rueben Contreras gets the ball out of the Mingus backfield during a friendly with Camp Verde. Since tearing his ACL during the season, Contreras has healed up and was moving well on his knee. VVN/Travis Guy|
|Luis “Pollo“ Hernandez makes a stop and looks up field during the Marauders friendly with the Cowboys. VVN/Travis Guy|
Embracing the true spirit of summer, the Mingus Union boys' soccer team is not focusing on any certain skills or drills, no; they are out there having fun.
"Getting touches and having fun," said head coach Calvin Behlow. "Our practices aren't consisting of any drills right now; we are just out here having fun."
A typical practice for the Marauders involves them playing each other for the entire practice time or having a friendly with Camp Verde or another team. He may begin a practice by telling his team to hustle more or to try "receiving the ball with their front foot," but that is what he wants them to think about while on the pitch. As he prepares for his sophomore campaign at the helm of the team, Behlow wants every one on the same page.
"Our first couple practices our passes were off, we weren't quite getting there but as the summer season goes on we've been getting way better," said senior Mikey Gilboy.
By just playing soccer, he keeps his veterans sharp, gets the incoming freshmen used to playing at the varsity level (there will be a few freshmen that will have the opportunity to play varsity.) and the team is able to correct mistakes and iron things out on their own, becoming a more "cohesive" unit, as Gilboy said.
"Our main focus is just keeping our skills sharp, getting our passes in, getting good touches, just staying cohesive as a team and not lose it before next season comes around," Gilboy said.
With the freedom the Marauders have currently, Behlow hopes that will foster a creativity that he wants to see in the team. As he said, this is summer, games do not matter so why not have fun and try some things out that the boys might not try during the season. Contreras has noticed that it is helping the team mesh better with the mix of new and experienced Marauders.
"We're all learning to play with the younger kids really well and they're all going into the game well with us, they're all learning really well, and I think the creativeness just comes as we play," Contreras said. "We don't try to be creative, it just comes naturally to us now."
One of the bigger areas of concern for the Marauders was how beat up the team was at the end of the season. Contreras was out with a blown ACL and the rest of the team was bruised, battered and in-need of some R&R.
The time off paid off in spades. Contreras was moving around like his old self (for the most part), junior Luis "Pollo" Hernandez has began to come into his own as a striker and possible goalie Oscar Gonzales Rodriguez is back in the net after sitting out 2013-14 with an injury.
One thing that Behlow will be focusing on is Contreras and his knee. He has noticed, and the senior admitted, that he is not playing to his full potential right now but his knee "feels amazing". Behlow wants to see his 2013-14 captain playing with no tepidness but with an aggressiveness that he believes helps avoid injuries.
"I'm not playing to my fullest right now, I'm going like, I'd say 60 percent," Contreras admitted. "I still know that kids will come in hard and I can get hit, so I do have to be really careful about that."
"I think Rueben's got to play hard. I think that when he plays timid, if he goes timid, he runs the risk of [reinjuring it] ... as soon as you get that timidness and are on your heels, crazy things can happen I think usually the aggressor has less injury, they're less prone to injury because they're being aggressive."