MORRIS — In his 13 years as the Morris boys soccer coach, David Valdivia has tried to instill a sense of duty to the program and foster a family atmosphere to his players.
That was evident Saturday night, as more than 25 Morris soccer alumni showed up at the Morris Community High School field for a night of camaraderie and competition.
The alumni were split randomly into two teams and played each other, with the winning team earning the right to take on the Morris varsity squad.
The varsity squad was missing some key players due to injury, vacations and work obligations and put up a good fight against the alumni. The alumni held a 3-0 lead at halftime of the game that consisted of two 25-minutes halves, but persevered and scored twice in the second half, on goals by Owen Serna and Nick Webber, to make it 3-2. Chris Martinez, a 2018 graduate, scored twice for the alumni in the first half, with Chava Villanueva (2014) adding the other goal. Villanueva also had both goals for the winning alumni team in the first game, with 2015 grad and single-season goal record-holder Ricardo Del Toro scoring once for the other alumni squad.
The crowd was also entertained by the the announcing of the game by Valdivia’s 7-year-old son, Apollo.
More important than the results for Valdivia, though, was the giving back to the program of the alumni.
“It was a good turnout again,” he said. “It’s nice to see that the guys still care about the program and want to help us out.”
After the game, Valdivia huddled the two teams together and addressed them. He emphasized to the current Morris players that the alumni had worn the same jersey and care about how the program is faring. He reminded them that the earlier players had gone through the same types of workouts and showed the dedication to help build the program. He then asked the alumni to continue to help.
“We need help coaching at the lower levels,” he told the alumi. “I know everyone is busy, but if you can take some time to volunteer and coach in the MSA [Morris Soccer Association], that would really help us out.”
He also asked the alumni, “If you could go back in time and give advice to yourselves at these guys [varsity players] age, what would it be?”
The alumni gave answers such as “trust your teammates,” “enjoy it while you can,” “put in the work,” and “do what the coaches ask.”
Former players that attended, and their graduation year, were: Logan Henne (2021), Zack Laursen (2013), Grant Simon (2014), Keaton Auwerda (2021), Jose Salinas (2014), Remington Pempe (2003), Salvador “Chava” Villanueva (2014), Jorge Gutierrez (2015), Mac Van Oudt (2018), Derw Tambling (2020), Matt Thayer (2014), Martin Jara (2018), Ricardo Del Toro (2015), Fernando Del Toro (2013), Gustavo Zavala (2020), Nick Borgstrom (2015), Anthony Castellano (2021), Luke Poston (2020), Yoo Onu Lee (2019), Chris Martinez (2018), Oscar Escatel (2019), Tim Henson (1995), Andres Rico (2020), and Jose Fuentes (2019).
“It’s just great that so many guys continue to show up and support the program,” Valdivia said. “I told our players that these guys all wore the same jersey and want to see the team do well. I get emails all the time during the season from former players asking how we are doing. I also want our current guys to know that they are representing not only themselves and the school, but the guys that came before them, and that they are a part of something.”