As a child, Izaiah Nanez would ride his bike to Blackstone Park in Mendota to play soccer with his friends.
He fell in love with the sport.
“I just like how easy it is to play,” Nanez said. “All you need is friends and a ball.”
Nanez began begging his parents to sign him up for the Mendota Area Youth Soccer league, and his parents agreed despite his father, Eloy, not being a big fan of soccer.
“My dad actually didn’t like the sport when I was little,” Nanez said. “He didn’t find it as entertaining.”
But Eloy Nanez learned the sport and coached Izaiah and his friends growing up. He also helped Izaiah at home as they watched film or practiced skills in the field behind their house.
“My dad accepted my love for the game, and he helped me move forward,”Nanez said.
Nanez was motivated by his father’s dedication.
“It shows how much support he has for me,” Nanez said about his father’s coaching. “I didn’t want to let him down. The amount of effort he put into it, I had to give it back to him, so I practiced every day, just showing him I care and that I thank him for supporting me.”
All the effort paid off as Nanez had a successful career at Mendota.
“If we don’t make that switch, I don’t know how the season would have went.”— Nick Myers, Mendota coach
This fall, Nanez moved to defender, helping the Trojans record 15 shutouts and allow only 16 goals in 26 games. He also provided key leadership as Mendota went 21-3-2 and won a fifth consecutive regional championship.
For all he accomplished this season, Nanez is the 2023 NewsTribune Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
“If we don’t make that switch, I don’t know how the season would have went,” Mendota coach Nick Myers said. “I thought Izaiah did fantastic for us in the back.”
The Trojans needed someone to fill the void left by the graduation of Rafa Romero, who played center back for Mendota and was the 2022 NewsTribune Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
“We were losing a lot of leadership, especially in our back line, and I just thought it was a natural fit to move Izaiah from playing an offensive position to one of our center back positions on defense so he could be a leader for us back there,” Myers said.
Nanez was open to the move.
“I’ve always been comfortable on defense,” Nanez said. “Before high school, I was a defender. My coach knew that, and when he moved me, I felt like I was equipped, and I was able to use my experience to navigate my teammates and let them know what to do.”
At 6-foot-2, Nanez had the size and other physical skills to be a strong defender, but also the experience to know where to be. Most important was his leadership.
“He’s not the quickest from a sprinting standpoint on our team, but having the soccer IQ and being in the right place at the right time and having proper positioning, he just did awesome back there for us,” Myers said. “He brought a sense of calm over the team and was our most vocal player. Not a lot got past him. We didn’t give up many goals this year, and he was a big part of that. The other three back there did a fantastic job also, but I really think Izaiah’s leadership was a big reason for our success.”
Nanez hopes to continue his soccer career in college.
“It’s such an awesome feeling,” Nanez said about being part of Mendota’s success the past four years. “Nothing matches it. I want to thank my teammates throughout my four years. I couldn’t wish for anyone else to have played with. I’ve always played soccer with them my whole life. It’s kind of bittersweet to say that my career is over at Mendota High School.”