Bruins brimming with optimism

Bear River Soccer Outlook
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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LAKE OF THE PINES — Even with just a handful of practices under their belts, the Bear River High soccer players are happy with what they’re seeing on the pitch. Just four players are back from last season’s squad, which won a total of five games. They will all fill crucial roles as seniors. Trevor O’Lena said there are a lot of positives to build on with the young team. “Out of the four years I’ve played here I think this is the strongest team we’ve had,” said O’Lena, who scored eight of the team’s 21 goals last year. “I’d like to win the PVL and I think we have a strong enough team this year that we could do it.” While the Bruins finished 3-5-4 last season, they were rarely blown out and played some of their best games against the league’s best. Ties against co-champions Whitney and El Dorado late in the season gave the veteran players reason to believe heading into the off-season. Coach Sukum Sai-Ngarm, who grew up playing soccer barefoot in Thailand, said he’s happy with the progress and the attitude his team has in early training sessions. “I do this because I love the sport and I love to see them excited about playing,” Sai-Ngarm said. “I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years and I always say as long as they’re excited, I feel accomplished.” Along with O’Lena, senior Reilly Raab is back in the midfield. Senior Jory Gemignani was a leader for Bear River’s tough defense last season and skilled forward Jonathan Robinson returns to provide some scoring punch. Robinson’s brother Jacob is one of five sophomores vying for a spot in the varsity lineup and the brothers are looking forward to being back on the field together. “We played together when I was in seventh grade,” Jonathan said. “I think (Jacob) is going to be a good player for us.” Junior Cameron Billingham is another solid midfielder for Bear River. Sai-Ngarm said he is hesitant to add sophomores to the varsity lineup, but he and his veteran players have been impressed with the talent level they’ve displayed early on. “We’ve got a number of sophomores and a freshman trying out for varsity, which is unusual,” Raab said. “But they’re holding their own so far, with regards to their skill level.” Raab battled through injuries last season. He suffered two concussions during games, but bounced back and is the team’s inspirational leader. “We don’t really have superstars on this team,” Raab said. “But I think we’re going to work better as a team. And we’ve known each other for three or four years now, so we play well together.” The PVL said goodbye to El Dorado and Whitney, but will welcome in Center and Foothill, which both have excellent reputations on the soccer field. Colfax figures to be a contender and Placer – Bear River’s other chief rival – could also be in the mix. “The two new schools are very good. It’s not like they’re going to be pushovers at all,” Sai-Ngarm said. “All the schools in the league are quite competitive. I don’t think anybody can make any assumptions about who will win it.”