There are a lot of ways to measure success in the world of high school soccer. Anything from grade point average to a program’s growth rate can count for a lot depending on who you’re talking to.
Of course, if you want a clear bottom line, it’s difficult to beat straight up won-loss percentage.
That’s where the Kennewick boys soccer team has most programs beat.
Over the last four seasons under coach Brian Gochoel, the Lions have gone 50-16 (.757), including two consecutive state berths to go with last season’s Mid-Columbia Conference and Class 3A regional titles.
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“With the 16-match maximum (regular season) from the WIAA, any time you get 10 wins is a pretty good season. These guys are averaging above that,” Gochoel said of a group of 10 seniors that has been with him since he began. “That’s a testament to their willingness to come together as a team and take pride in their game.”
Gochoel’s steady influence since arriving from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before the 2010 season has given Kennewick the guidance it needed to become a yearly contender.
This will be his last season with the Lions, however, as he has been hired to start up the intercollegiate club soccer program at Washington State’s Tri-Cities campus beginning this fall.
“I feel we’ve all taken something from (Gochoel). He’s really taught me a lot and made a big impact on my game,” said senior midfielder Alvaro Licea, a four-year starter. “I feel every year we progress more and more. I see improvement in our players every year.”
Senior defender Marcos Borja noted the chemistry that has been a part of this group’s success since 2011.
“We’ve had it since freshman year, and we built it up our sophomore year,” said Borja, who joined his brother Samuel Borja, Licea and Daniel Uribe on varsity as freshmen. “We’ve always managed to come and do the work.”
Kennewick went 16-4 last year and won its first-ever state tournament game before losing to Hanford in the Class 3A state quarterfinals.
The Lions are 9-1 so far this season with hopes of advancing even further. Team captains Marcos Borja and Licea were careful not to let Kennewick get a big head after winning its first nine games.
“I don’t like my team thinking we’re the big thing,” Borja said. “I’m like, ‘Guys, don’t even start. We need to prove it.’ ”
A 4-2 road loss at Walla Walla on Saturday may have given the Lions a shot of humility at the right time.
“To me, it was a good thing. Obviously, we didn’t want to lose, but now that we know that feeling we don’t want to feel it again,” Licea said.
Another big part of Kennewick’s success is the play of Ramiro Chavez, a senior who leads the league with 17 goals, 10 more than Mario Zarate of Hanford, the next-best scorer on the list.
Chavez led the Lions with eight goals last season, including one in the playoffs, but he was torn between helping his family and helping his team toward the end of last season, missing valuable practice time while the team advanced through the playoffs.
Gochoel supported Chavez’s willingness to help earn money for his family but certainly missed his top scoring threat.
“My heart ached for him. For any kid to be put in that kind of situation, especially somebody with as much talent and potential as Ramiro, is so hard,” Gochoel said. “I don’t want to say that’s the reason we didn’t progress, but having Ramiro focused and available both physically and emotionally makes us a better team.”
So far, Chavez hasn’t had to make the same tough decisions, allowing him to concentrate on soccer.
The result is a more potent Kennewick offense.
“Ramiro, he’s a beast out there,” Licea said. “I think he’s scored in every game. Pretty much, when we’re down, you can count on him to score.
“Not only is he a good scorer, but he also comes back to play defense.”
Gochoel said Chavez is playing as well as anyone he’s seen at this level, including Alejandro Bedoya, an attacking winger playing in France who may soon end up playing for the U.S. National Team.
“Ramiro, where he’s playing at right now, is on par with Alejandro,” Gochoel said.