Nine returning starters bolster the 2015 Columbia High boys soccer team that is hoping to make a stronger start than the 2014 version did.
Last year, the Bruins had to rally late in the 1A Trico League season to snag a spot in the Southwest District playoffs. So far this year, they are 3-0-1 in league with a pair of shutouts to their credit.
“If we can avoid digging ourselves an early hole I think we can compete for a higher position in league this time around,” said re-turning Bruins Coach Christopher Cramer. “To do so, we have to be able to compete every game, because the competition in the Trico League has risen tremendously over the last few years. No team can afford to take any game for granted.”
The 2015 Bruins are led by seniors Isidro Ramirez, Luis Pascual, and Rodrigo Cor-tez.
Ramirez, a defender and 2014 All-Trico First-Teamer, is serving his second season as captain. Pascual, an First- Team forward in 2014, has been Columbia’s leading goal scorer three seasons running. Cortez, a defender, is coming off a 2014 season in which he made the All-Trico Second Team.
A notable absence this season is junior forward Ivan Cortes, the Trico’s most valuable offensive player in 2014. According to Cramer, Cortes joined the Portland Timbers’ U-16 academy team last fall and is unable to participate in high school soccer this spring.
“While his absence leaves a big void, we are extremely proud of his accomplishments,” Cramer said. “He is a great example for other players in our program.”
Up-and-coming players in the CHS program can be found throughout the 2015 lineup.
The defensive back line, for example, features the talents of sophomores Brady Trullinger (honorable mention in 2014) and Jose “Cha-va” Romero.
“Our defense, which was on the young side last year, is now a solid group of veteran players,” Cramer noted.
In the midfield, juniors Yvan Escoto and Marcos Benitez return to help keep the ball moving through on offense to the Bruins’ other forwards, junior Luis Romero and senior Mario Var-gas.
Cramer said “the biggest question mark” he had going into the new season was the status of the midfield. The addition of Aaron Polster, an exchange student from Germany, “may just be the answer we were looking for.”
Cramer is also high on his freshmen class, three of whom “look poised for significant varsity playing time: forward Jose Eudave, defender Adrian Hernandez, and goalkeeper Leo Guer-rero.
“The goalkeeper position was our most unstable position last year, but this year we look to have some options that should see it stabilize for the foreseeable future,” Cramer said.
Defense and goalkeeping will be at premiums this year, in part because Cramer “counts on the Trico being a high-scoring league” this season.
He said contending teams like Seton Catholic, La Center, and Toledo/Winlock all return key elements of their offensive attacks, but that all three suffered graduation losses on defense.