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New season, new faces, same goal

Coach Paulo (right), Captain Sebastian Ruelas (in white shorts), and teammates prepare for practice. Photo by Carlos Pimentel

The Chemeketa men’s soccer team is looking to make a name for themselves with a lineup full of fresh faces as they head into the playoffs.

At the beginning of Coach Paulo Reis’ second season, the Chemeketa men’s soccer team faced a new challenge: just four of the players on the team were returning.

“It was a big challenge for us because of the new faces, and we have our own style,” Reis said. “We did two tryouts to get new players, and we are happy with the players we have.”

One of the few returning this season was Captain Sebastian Ruelas. Ruelas chose to play at Chemeketa to stay local and follow in the footsteps of his cousin, whose team won Chemeketa’s 2011 championship.

“Being humble is one of the most important things because you can be the greatest player, but if you are not humble, then all that goes away. I learned that from him,” Ruelas said.

Rebuilding a soccer team wasn’t easy, but Ruelas embraced the challenge over the past year.

“That’s what we really want, fresh guys that always want to get some playing time,” Ruelas said. “You can play soccer together, but if you don’t have the chemistry between all your guys, that won’t really work…I think we’ve become more than a team. We’ve become a family.”

Freshman Captain Jose Ochoa, goalkeeper, was a newcomer to the team from Woodburn High School. There, he helped win three state championships for his high school soccer team. Ochoa and a few high school teammates chose to play at Chemeketa to keep their bond together.

“Me and five other players decided to come here to ensure that we play together as a team,” Ochoa said. “Us winning three championships in a row at the high school level, we have the experience of playing under pressure, and have that mentality of being not only a champion but to always work hard.”

The Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) title is the ultimate goal for any team in the conference, but Storm’s main priority was to come out on top of the regional rankings to get a shot at the title. 

“It just depends on us. If we do our part and we arrive in the last game with a chance, we can fight for the championship,” Reis said. 

Ruelas and Ochoa believe they can help bring that title to Chemeketa. 

“If we keep on working hard the same way we are doing,” Ruelas said, “I believe we will win the South Region title. That’s not what we are just gonna go for. We want that NWAC title — the championship.”

“We have played this season amongst the tops teams in all of NWAC, therefore, we strongly believe as long as we stay strong together mentally, we will be able to come on top of the other teams,” Ochoa said.

Fresh off a win against Portland Community College and a tie against Lane, Storm was able to clinch the number one spot in the South Region. This guarantees them a bye in the first round of the playoffs. 

“We aren’t done yet,” Ruelas said. “Our main goal is to win the NWAC. We have to go step-by-step, winning each game. Everyone is working hard on that.”

Getting to the NWAC title game won’t be an easy road for Storm. To prepare for the first playoff game, Ruelas and Ochoa take the time in the off week to practice.

“I tell myself, ‘I am in control. You decide the success you want. In the game, you have the power to say if they are going to score or not,’” Ochoa said.

“I put in that extra [effort,]” said Ruelas. “You can work hard, but if you don’t put in that extra effort, that’s where it really matters. Maybe you need that little extra something in the game, and that’s the difference between an athlete and an athlete that wants to win.”

The team started their playoff play on Nov. 9 against Spokane as the No. 2 seed out of the East Region. They are currently in the NWAC final four in the race to the championship.

This story was updated on Nov. 14 to reflect new information. For more updates, visit https://nwacstats.org.

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