By Ray Hamill — Even though they will not get to play a season this fall, there is a sizable contingent of local players currently impacting Humboldt State men’s soccer.
The Jacks feature four local stars on their roster, and all of them are making some noise and expected to contribute when the team returns to action.
“It’s important for us,” head coach Fred Jungemann said of the local presence. “Humboldt is a small community, and as a university we want to be connected to the community. And the soccer community in Humboldt County is even smaller, and we would love to have as much support as possible and be involved with the local community as much as possible.”
Building that relationship begins with the camps the program puts on for local players every summer, and it’s a relationship that appears to be paying dividends.
The Jacks feature former Fortuna stars Martin Calderon and Chico Cortes Garcia, as well as former Arcata goalie Tab Heinz and former McKinleyville playmaker Benicio Benavides-Garb.
Calderon, who is a red-shirt junior, has played a pivotal role in his time with the team, starting both seasons at center back and earning all-conference honors.
“He’s a very important part of our team,” the head coach said. “He’s calm under pressure, he’s a good leader, he organizes the defense well at center back.”
The former Husky, one of many to take their game to the collegiate level, has become a team leader for the Jacks and has an eye for setting up the offense.
“He’s really good on the ball and he makes good decisions,” Jungemann said. “He’s everything you could ask for from a defender.”
Garcia, meanwhile, has had to battle injuries in his time with the program, but could be in line to play a much bigger role, if he can find some consistency.
“Chico has two really strong things going for him,” the head coach said. “He’s very skillful and crafty and he’s a dangerous attacking player. But he’s also extremely competitive. He’s very driven.”
So too is Benavides-Garb.
The former Panther, who spent a year playing in France during high school, red-shirted this past fall and also could be ready for a breakout season with the team.
“He’s a great kid and a skillful player,” Jungemann said. “He works as hard, if not harder, than anybody on our team.”
On what is expected to be an upper-class heavy team when the Jacks return to action, the former Panthers star may have to be patient, but his head coach believes he has a big future with the program.
“He’s very driven and he’s got a lot of potential,” Jungemann said.
Heinz, who joined the team before last season after some time at Cal State Monterrey Bay, will be a senior.
He played a back-up role in 2019 and is expected to challenge for the starting job, albeit against a couple of strong freshmen.
“He’s a big kid, he’s very physical and he’s very good in the air,” the head coach said. “He’s got a very good physical presence in the box and as a senior he has a level of maturity.
“He’s very calm. He does a lot of good things for us.”