Tiger Pride: Shelby soccer squad secures first WMC title in 21 years.

October 17, 2021

First row, left to right: Head Coach Jairo Coronado, Ryan Jenkins, Ignacio Ortiz, Alan Arreola, Harry Jenkins, Riley Garcia, Miguel Guerra, Carson Claeys, Angel Avilez, Jackson Green, Isaias Cortina and Christian Peterson. Second row: Gabriel Gonzalez, Devon Fitzgerald, Joseph Hayes, Mauricio Castillo, Joel Cavazos, Bishop Lee, Mason Garcia, Lalo Garcia, Ricardo Bahena, Caleb Allison, Ismael Valdez, Zachary Horton, Edgar Valenzuela, and Assistant Coach Jonah Kelley.

Tiger Pride: Shelby soccer squad secures first WMC title in 21 years.

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press. 

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

SHELBY — The Shelby Boys Varsity Soccer Team won its first West Michigan Conference title in 21 years, and the players and coaches are excited and confident going into district action this week.

The team’s overall record is 13-4-1, and the Tigers are undefeated in the conference with a 6-0 tally.

Coached by Shelby High School math and Spanish teacher Jairo Coronado, the team’s chemistry is a big part of its success. This is Coronado’s third year as the varsity coach. He’s been involved in Shelby soccer as an assistant coach for several years under the leadership of former coach Pete Peterson who launched the program. The coaching duo oversees the girls program in the spring as well, with Peterson coaching the varsity team and Coronado coaching the JV squad.

“We work together very well,” said Coronado. “I’ve learned so much from him.”

“We promised our seniors last year that we were going to do better and win the conference,” said the coach. “We’re going to do it for everyone, but especially you guys.” Last year, the Tigers finished fourth in the conference with one-point losses to long-time conference foes North Muskegon and Whitehall.

The Tigers knew they had to defeat Whitehall and North Muskegon to capture that coveted WMC title this season. Conference play kicked off against the Vikings, and the Tigers demolished Whitehall with a 9-1 mercy win.

“We took care of business in that first game against Whitehall. It was a great win for all of us.”

The final conference game was against archrival Hart Oct. 5, which ended with a 2-1 Tiger victory. “We wanted to end our conference season the way we started it.” 

The coach said his players were nervous going into that final game, and he reminded them: “Just have fun — don’t forget to have fun.

“Hard work pays off and it’s going to continue working.”

Hard work is performed by many of his athletes on and off the field. Several of them work in addition to attending school and playing sports. “They have to work because they have to provide for their families.

“This year, we knew we had to do the extra, what I call ‘plus one’ — when you do your best but you give me the extra, and I ask them for that extra one, and they give it to me.”

District action begins Tuesday, Oct. 19, when the Tigers travel to Big Rapids to play the hosts. Coronado anticipates that it will be a hard-fought contest. The Cardinals will have revenge after losing to the Tigers last season in the finals, which handed Shelby its first district title in 15 years. Adapting from grass to astroturf on the Cardinals’ field is another challenge.

District finals will provide a face-off with the winner of the Manistee vs. Hart semifinal game, so the Tigers could see their rivals again this season.

“At the end of the day, whoever wins will have our support because we want Oceana County to be noticed out there,” said the coach. 

The team is like a family, he said. “We have a great chemistry on and off the field.” Many of the players have been friends and played soccer together since they were very young kids. “I’m proud of every single one of them.”

Senior Joseph Hayes, who is a team captain, has notched two goals and dished out 10 assists, with 93 percent of passes completed. Defeating Whitehall in the first WMC matchup was a highlight of the season for Hayes. “We knew we had to go out and win that game if we wanted to win conference, and we went out and dimed them,” said Hayes. “They ended up getting second in conference, so it was a pretty big win for us.” The senior is hoping for another district title. “We won it last year, so we want to bring it back two years in a row.” He’s also hoping to advance further in the tournament at the regional and state levels.

“We face some guys getting hurt and not being able to play,” said Hayes. “So we begin the tournament with a couple starters down. But we’re a pretty balanced team, so we should be alright.”

Sophomore Mauricio Castillo, a team captain, has totaled five goals along with four assists, completing 96 percent of passes. Castillo has played at the varsity level since he was a freshman. 

“When I first touched the ball, I loved it a lot,” said the young player recalling his early years of playing the sport. 

“We really stepped it up when we had to,” said Castillo of the successful season. “Playing Whitehall as our first conference game really challenged us mentally.

“This team is a really great team — we’re a family,” he said. “We’re always working together.”

Castillo’s goal is winning a regional championship. The Tigers fell short of a regional title last season after losing in the finals. 

Junior Miguel Guerra, another team captain, has amassed four goals and seven assists with an 87 percent completion of passes. “I just have a love for the sport,” said Guerra, who plays left wing and offensive midfield. “My goal is to make it to state,” he said. 

“I’m really happy with this team. They’re my second family, and I just love them to death.”

Junior team captain Carson Claeys has a 91 percent pass completion with four goals and one assist. “It was a cool thing to experience, and we worked very hard for it,” said Claeys about winning the conference title. “Finishing strong” is his goal for the remainder of the season. 

Senior Ryan Jenkins has totaled 14 goals so far this season with five assists, completing 92 percent of passes.

Defeating North Muskegon was a highlight for Jenkins. “They’re a really good team, and beating them showed how good of a team we can be.” Jenkins is also aiming for a regional championship by “going really hard at practice.”

Senior Ricardo Bahena has made 15 goals this year with five assists and a passes completion percentage of 85. Bahena moved to the US from Mexico last year. “I never played on an organized team,” said Bahena. “I was playing soccer in the streets.” 

Bahena credits his coach and teammates for helping him acclimate from informal play to an organized sport. “To win games, we have to have good communication with all of our teammates.

“At first it was tough for me, I didn’t know a lot of English. I think I learned from them by playing soccer with them. If we want to do something, we have to play like a family.

“My coach said, ‘You’re fast, you have talent, but there are a lot of things you need to work on.’ And there are still things I need to work on, but Coach keeps helping me a lot.” Coronado is like a father to him, he said. Bahena aspires to play soccer at the college level. 

Senior Riley Garcia has completed 91 percent of his passes along with one goal and four assists.

“We work so well together,” said Garcia. “These are guys I’ve played with my whole life.

“My first goal is to beat Big Rapids Tuesday and hopefully win districts.” He’s aiming for a regional championship. “We’re going to push really hard.”

Junior goalie Bishop Lee has made 123 saves this season with 44 in conference play. Bishop has guarded the goal for seven shutouts, three of which were in conference action. Only 16 total goals have been scored against him this season with just three in WMC games. “This is .8 goals a game — less than one per game,” said Coach Coronado.

Lee began playing organized soccer his freshman year after switching over from football. “At first I was playing football, then I transferred over to soccer. I’ve been in a football family my whole life. One of the big reasons is that we didn’t have a JV team and I didn’t want to get hurt. Then, I broke my face in soccer,” he said with a chuckle noting the irony. “I couldn’t chew for four weeks.”

Crushing Whitehall in that 9-1 mercy game was a great moment for Lee. “We were the first conference team to ever mercy Whitehall,” he said proudly. Ludington and Spring Lake are the only other teams to mercy the Vikings, he said.

“One of my big goals is making it to the regional finals and winning,” said Lee. “Last year, we went to the regional finals (against Elk Rapids) and we didn’t win. This year, I want to win it.

“Our team is playing really good right now,” said Lee. “We’re playing together as a team. I’m happy to be with them. They’re all great guys, and they all work hard.”

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