Jorge Chavez was dead set on improving his shot heading into his senior season for the Campo Verde boys soccer team.
On too many occasions as a junior he saw his shots on goals miss the box, sailing wide left, right or over the goal altogether. Campo Verde coach Andrew Guarneri made it a point of emphasis for one of his captains during club season, where he is also Chavez’s coach.
Now past midway point of the pandemic-delayed 2021 season, the offseason work has paid off.
“Jorge is his own breed, he’s a true finisher, a true forward,” Guarneri said. “He puts 95% of his shots on frame, which forces keepers to make saves. I think he still has a lot to learn, which is something him and I have talked about.
“But he’s willing to work to improve his deficiencies. He wants to get better.”
Chavez has helped lead the Coyotes to a 6-1 start to the season, with their only loss coming against region foe Casteel — one of the favorites along without Campo Verde to win the 5A title. The Coyotes have average just over three goals a game, with their highest total for one game so far this season set at six against Red Mountain on Jan. 22.
Of Campo Verde’s 27 total goals, Chavez has scored 13 of them on 55 shots. The forward has proven himself as a threat to opposing defenders.
Against Higley on Feb. 2, Chavez scored two goals in the first 18 minutes of play. He and several other starters were pulled from the game until the midway point of the second half, where he came in and immediately connected with the back of the net.
“Honestly, I wanted to perfect my shooting,” Chavez said. “I was tired of shooting and shooting and shooting and missing. I want to score goals. Since junior year ended, I did anything I could in club, the summer and in free time to try to perfect everything I could.”
Chavez has so far gained interest from some schools in regard to continuing his soccer career at the next level. He figures more offers will present themselves as the season goes on.
For now, he remains focused on continuing to improve his craft in practice and matches for Campo Verde. Winning a state title before he graduates has and will continue to be his main goal, no matter how many others he scores.
“We want to end this season with a bang,” Chavez said. “I want to leave an impact on this team. I want people to see me as a great leader on and off the field.”
Campo Verde’s dominance through the first half of the season isn’t uncommon for Guarneri and his team.
Only once in their 11 years of existence have the Coyotes finished the season with a losing record. In the 2012-13 season, Campo Verde finished with 20 wins for the first time in program history. Four years later in 2016-17, the Coyotes went 25-1, with their only loss coming against North Canyon in the playoffs.
The next year, however, Campo Verde finished 19-4-1 and won its first state title.
Guarneri credits the buy-in from players, parents, coaches and school administrators for the team’s success. He said he’s been lucky to have a group of captains that wear the arm band with pride every year. This season is no different.
“They all have a willingness to work for each other,” Guarneri said. “The biggest reason for our program’s success is the kids believe in each other.”
Along with Chavez, senior middle forward Nikolas Pallozzi also wears the captain’s band. Junior defender Cody Helmhout earned his arm band after establishing himself as the unsung leader of Campo Verde’s defense.
Despite being younger than the other two captains, Chavez said Helmhout is mature beyond his years and has proven his ability to lead both by example and vocally.
“We just aim to be what Campo soccer is all about,” Chavez said. “We want to show all the other players how we are expected to play. Cody is one of the more mature juniors and shows those qualities as a captain.
“I want someone on the defense that we can all be confident in knowing what to do. That’s what we have with him back there.”
Campo Verde has used momentum each week so far this season, but it knows it will face teams like Casteel again down the line.
Continuing to build momentum will pay dividends as the playoffs near, but Chavez said it’ll also take continuous improvement from everyone involved in order to finish the season at the top of the 5A Conference.
“This team could do wonders,” Chavez said. “We have the skill. We just have to put it to work. We can’t be pushed around. We have to be the team that shows up expecting to win and do it.”