Chaparral boys eager to validate great expectations in I-A Southern

When Chaparral boys soccer coach Eric Rolwing filled out his preseason questionnaire in August, he made no attempt to hide his confidence in his team.

With the Division I-A Southern Region tournament set to begin today, Rolwing remains just as upbeat about the Cowboys’ chances.

“Every year, if you look at our stats, we’ve been progressively better. We’ve taken it a step further,” said Rolwing, in his fourth season at Chaparral. “We just keep making a step forward, so everybody can plainly see, ‘Hey, we get better every year.’ And so, that’s why everybody feels this is our year. We still very much feel like this is our year.”

The Cowboys (17-6-1) finished second in the Sunrise League behind Sunrise Mountain and are one of the hottest teams in Division I-A entering the postseason. Chaparral takes on Mojave, the No. 3 seed from the Sunset League, at 7 p.m. today at Faith Lutheran in a quarterfinal.

The Division I-A girls tournament also takes place at Faith Lutheran beginning at 5 p.m. The Division I boys and girls Sunrise and Sunset region tournaments open today at Heritage Park with matches starting at 4 and 6 p.m.

“We’re going to be good next year, too, and we’re built for a while. But this is a team, the last four years, everybody knew that this was our chance if we were going to win state,” Rolwing said. “I have a bunch of really good kids, and I think that’s what’s got us here. It sounds so cheesy, but love. Love and character.”

The Cowboys reached the playoffs in Rolwing’s second season and lost a 2-1 decision to Western in the Division I-A Southern Region quarterfinals. Last season Chaparral upset Western 1-0 in the quarterfinals before losing 4-0 to eventual state champion Tech in the semifinals.

With eight starters and 11 seniors back, Rolwing put together an ambitious schedule this season as Chaparral took on Division I heavyweights Palo Verde, Green Valley, Eldorado and Bishop Gorman in nonleague play. The Cowboys lost all four matches but went on a 15-2-1 run to end the regular season, with the lone losses coming against Sunrise Mountain.

“We saw how good those teams are, and we knew we could keep up with them,” senior midfielder Ivan Jaquez said. “It gave us confidence to take it to these next games and play with everything. We knew we could be a contender for state.”

Chaparral features a balanced offense led by Jose Morales (23 goals) and Omar Miranda (15 goals). Gerardo Skewes-Olvera, the reigning Division I-A Player of the Year, leads all Southern Nevada goalkeepers with 11 shutouts.

“Most of us knew each other from middle school and we had chemistry,” senior defender Omar Carranza said. “We just became brothers. We have each other’s back on and off the field, and we work hard.”

The Cowboys, who lost 3-0 at Sunrise Mountain on Wednesday in a match that decided the Sunrise League’s top seed, have not advanced to the state tournament since 2005. Rolwing said his team is focused on Mojave (10-4-2) and not looking ahead to a potential matchup against Sunset League champion Western.

“We know how much passion comes when you’re playing a team like us,” Rolwing said. “The hardest game for us to play going forward is this first game, because Mojave is going to give it everything, and my boys need to be able to match that level and surpass it.”

Contact reporter David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.

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