Boys Soccer: Van Buren brings back experience; Alma retools defense

George "Clay" Mitchell
Press Argus-Courier

Van Buren returns with experience at all of its starting positions for this year's soccer season, which starts Monday, while Alma will have six returning starters.

Van Buren coach Nathan Almond said his 2021 crew is the most experienced group he's had on the field. The varsity is comprised entirely of juniors and seniors, a first in program history.

"I'm looking forward to watching this group compete," Almond said. "We have experience and skill at all 11 positions, and they should be fun to watch."

Alma will field its largest roster of the fledgling program with 33 players and will have all new defensive starters this season, but coach Cory Sturdivant doesn't seem concerned.

"I feel confident that we have depth at every position," Sturdivant said. "Finding the right combination of players will be key for us early this season. I'm excited about what I have seen out this group in practice."

Players To Watch

Van Buren

Adalberto Flores, SR, center back: He's the team captain and a three-year starter for Van Buren. Almond: "He brings a lot of experience and athleticism to our backline this year."

Jose Zarate, SR, center midfield: Zarate returns for his fourth season and is also ateam captain. Almond: "He has excellent ball skill and a great motor. His offense off the ball and his defense have improved tremendously, and I expect him to be a force for us in the middle of the field."

Kylan Almond, JR, striker: He's another multi-year starter for Van Buren as he is back for his third start. Coach Almond: "He has good size and strength.  He positions well and is very capable of finishing in the attacking third of the field."

Alma

Ashton Outlaw, SR, forward: He's a second-year starter in his fourth season. Sturdivant: "I'm looking for him to have a big impact this season. He has been working in the offseason to adapt his game to where he can be a target player or in a support role dropping back into the midfield line. His love to play is second to none on the team and I'm excited to see what he is able to achieve this year."

Carlos Gonzales, FR, center defender: The coach has been ready for Gonzales to suit up for the varsity team the past few years. Sturdivant: "He's already shown in practice his ability to read the game and make quick decisions to win the ball. He has great control and passing and really could play in any spot on the field for us but takes pride in playing defense. He's gritty, tough and will be a leader for us on the field."