Dayton High senior Juan Aguinaga winds up to shoot against Douglas High School Thursday night. Aguinaga scored once in the Dust Devils’ loss to the Tigers.
Photo by Carter Eckl.
The Dust Devil boys soccer team has watched the landscape around them in Class 3A alter drastically over the recent months.
After a shortened spring season, Dayton is now competing against a handful of former Class 4A schools that have dropped down to Class 3A, per NIAA realignment.
So far, Dayton has been matched up with two schools that have made the drop in McQueen and Douglas.
“It’s tough with realignment. We are playing a lot of 4A schools that are now 3A schools,” said Dayton head coach Luis Melgarejo. “If we can learn to hold the ball with that pressure. … If we can give everyone a good fight, I’ll walk away happy.”
Melgarejo left Thursday’s game with a smile on his face given how the Dust Devils’ fared after falling behind 4-0.
Juan Aguinaga and Noah Gibson tallied the two goals in Dayton’s 6-2 loss to Douglas Thursday.
Aguinaga put the first one in the top left corner from 20 yards out after working his way into space.
Gibson’s goal came in the 62nd minute when the senior went sprinting down the right-hand side of the field and bent a perfect shot across the front of the goal.
Gibson’s shot caught the left post and kicked into the back of the net.
“You send him the ball and he is guaranteed to beat the defense,” said Melgarejo. “However, we want to avoid just sending the ball up. We want to work our way up.”
Dust Devils’ lineup
For the second season in a row, Dayton will have a freshman as its net minder.
Ellan Ortiz is getting his first reps on the varsity pitch with the Dust Devils and despite a smaller stature, has already shown a fearlessness uncommon in freshman athletes.
“He’s great. He’s not scared. He’s a tough boy,” said Melgarejo.
Ortiz saw plenty of action Thursday afternoon against the Tigers’ high-pressing attacking front.
In front of Ortiz, are two returning defenders and two defenders who are new to the varsity level.
“Our whole back line last year was all seniors. So these guys had to step up,” Melgarejo said. “How we played our second half, defensively, is what we expect. We were nervous.”
The midfield is another area where Dayton has been tasked with making adjustments.
Last spring’s attacking-style midfield has morphed into speed down the wings.
Melgarejo is hoping that as the season goes on, his midfielders can become more technically skilled.
Aguinaga will be a staple at center mid/forward for the Dust Devils with his finishing prowess.
“I hope we can finish top three in the table and I hope we can give everyone a fight,” said Melgarejo. “Here’s Dayton; don’t sleep on them.”
Thanks to a high turnout, Dayton will field a junior varsity team for the first time in 14 years.