Cougar Soccer: A Story Of Perseverance

New season saw much improvement and great teamwork compared to last year


Steven Suastegui

The 2022 South Bronx Prep / HS223 Varsity Boys Soccer Team

At the beginning of the season, the Cougars had one goal in mind: to win the division which would be a challenge as they lost three key players from last year’s division-winning team.

Expectations were high as the returning team had matured not just physically but mentally. Most of the players were now seniors in their last year playing for the team.

The season got off to a difficult start when the team lost their captain, Luis Gonzalez. Coach De Jesus handed the captaincy to two seniors, Oscar Tapia and Alexis Miranda Barrera. The team also lost their two strikers (Bryan Dominguez and Junior Pareja), putting Coach De Jesus in an even more difficult situation.
In their first game, the Cougars were looking to repeat their victory in last year’s division against the LION school in the divisional finals. That wasn’t to be the case as the Cougars lost 4-1 in the heavy rain storm at Randalls. That gloomy day carried over and the Cougar team lost its next few games. The Cougars struggled in the Bronx/Manhattan B South league, losing again to first-place leaders LION 4-1 and losing to South Bronx 6-5 in late September.

After this rough start to the season, the Cougar soccer team returned to form, beating the South Bronx 6-5 on October 17 at Randall’s island. The key players were Bryan Chavarria Barre, canceling South Bronx attacks, and Edwin Martinez adjusting his style of play from midfield to goalkeeper. Mauro Villamil, Silvestre Candia, and Gianni Villano Enrique were the main goal scorers, and Freddy Villalba stepped up on the defense to be the main creator for the team.

Other impactful players this season included Alexis Miranda Barrera, Number #5, Grade: Senior, Oscar Tapia, Number #9, Grade: Senior, Steven Suastegui, Number #15, Grade: Senior, Mauro Villamil, Number #11, Grade: Junior and Kristiane Coston Jr, Number #16, Grade: Freshman”

Then things started to turn around in October. The team slowly started to improve more by changing their playing style, maintaining more possession, and applying more pressure on their opponents. Even though the odds seemed impossible for Coach De Jesus’s team whether from the early season loss of motivation or the loss of two of Coach De Jesus’s main strikers, that didn’t discourage Coach De Jesus from trying and he made sure that the team wasn’t losing faith either.

By October 18, the Cougars had improved from the beginning of the season when they were in 5th place with two wins and three losses with low motivation to 3rd place with eight wins and four losses. The team showed more composure and ended the regular session strong. Although it was no longer possible for the Cougars to win the division, they now had a different goal in mind, going into the playoffs with the hunger to win.

On the day of the playoff game against The Clinton School, Coach De Jesus felt the team was ready to play. Unfortunately, the game ended as a 4-0 defeat.

In the end, the Cougars ended their season with a disappointing loss to a very good team. The Cougars made sacrifices with injuries and missed opportunities, but the team finished with a real sense of accomplishment.

The team is already looking forward to next season with many returning juniors including Mauro Villamil, Bryan Dominguez, Gideon Owusu Adu, Freddy Villalba, Leonel Alindo, Gianni Villano Enrique, Silvestre Candia, and Junior Pareja.