Losing out on the spring sports season after COVID-19 hit was tough for everyone across the country.
It hit teams and individuals with the potential to reach state especially hard.
The Nevada boys’ soccer team was one such team. After ending a five-year state drought in 2018 the Cubs fell one game shy of returning to state in 2019, falling to North Polk in the Class 1A substate finals in a 2-1 battle.
That loss stayed with Nevada all offseason. The Cubs were itching to get a chance to atone for it and make their way back to the Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines.
“We had a lot to prove this year,” Nevada junior midfielder/defender Ayden Rhodes said. “We had all the hopes going into the season that we were going to prevail from last year’s loss.”
But they never got the chance. The season was officially cancelled due to COVID-19 on April 17.
“It was heartbreaking when the season was finally cancelled,” Nevada head coach Todd Sampson said. “We had been doing everything we could to keep our hopes up and options open, but ultimately the health and safety of everyone is the most important factor in the decisions. I still have our game and practice schedule in my calendar and get reminders on game days. The hardest part is thinking about all of our players and them missing out on their season.”
Nevada went 13-7 a year ago. The Cubs returned a significant portion of their talent from that team.
Back at forward was leading scorer Jose Buenrrostro, who tallied 19 goals and 16 assists a year ago. Senior Chase Lycke also came into the season with experience and Edgar Cabrerra was also in the mix at forward.
At midfield the Cubs were going to have Kody Kruschwitz, Luis Lopez, Aiden Freeman and Drew Robinson. Rhodes, Henry Nelson and Jacob Stufflebeam formed the defensive backline.
Sampson said keeper was up in the air before the season was suspended and then cancelled.
“I believe we could have been a state tournament team without a doubt,” Sampson said. “Depending on how things would have gone could have been vying for a deep run in the tournament.”
With Buenrrostro leading the way the Cubs figured to have a dynamite attack under a new formation. Sampson was also pleased with the experience of his defense.
Quality training in the offseason made Nevada a well-rounded team.
“Weightlifting and ball skills were what I worked on the most during the offseason,” Lycke said. “The areas I improved the most were strength and speed from weightlifting.”
The Nevada players were anxious to take part in a lot of matchups against old rivals during the season.
“I was looking forward to the Gilbert game,” Nelson said. “It is always fun to play Gilbert.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March the season was initially suspended. During that time the Cubs tried to treat it as an extension of the offseason and kept training in anticipation of salvaging at least part of the season.
“When it was suspended I tried focusing on what I can do to better myself in case it did resume,” Lycke said. “Mostly weightlifting.”
When the decision came down to cancel the season it was a huge blow to everyone in the program, especially the seniors.
“When the school year and spring sports season were cancelled I was very upset,” Kruschwitz said. “I was looking forward to doing track for the first time and playing my last season of soccer. It took me a while to actually realize that we were not going back, but now I am just hoping we get to have graduation.”
Sampson appreciates everything his senior class brought to the program. They helped turn it around - going from a losing record as freshmen to two regional final and one state appearance over their final two seasons.
“The seniors have dealt with this as best as can be expected considering the end of their careers were cut short by something outside of their control,” Sampson said. “This is a great group of seniors who have played pivotal roles in our soccer team during their time with us. I am holding out hope that we can do some sort of in person recognition with them this summer.”
As for the future of the program, Nevada should still be in good hands with Buenrrostro, Rhodes, Stufflebeam, Cabrerra, Lopez, Freeman and Robinson back to lead the way.
“Our guys love playing soccer, so there is no question in my mind that they will continue to improve their skills before next year,” Sampson said. “We will provide coaching and instruction as much as we can during the summer to hopefully help them out. We will still be returning a great group of guys that have played a lot of soccer in their lives. Our learning curve may be a little longer than usual, but I’m sure we will get there.”