New coach Golladay benefits from Luna's return to experienced squad
By Tommy Keeler Jr.
QUICKSBURG -- Expectations are always high for Stonewall Jackson's boys soccer team. The program has been strong for a number of years, but this year there's even more reason for the team to think big.
One of the biggest reasons is the return of Juan Luna. The soccer standout is back after missing last year due to being stuck in Mexico, unable to get his visa.
The senior was a huge part of the team two years ago, and his teammates are glad to have him back.
"It's amazing, you can give him any ball and he'll just put it away," Stonewall Jackson senior Ed Juarez said. "We were already planning on not having him this year. I thought we were going to have a really good year without him, so now that we have him and Roberto [Cardoso] they should be able to drop 20-plus goals each this year.
"It's amazing, because we'll have two first-team all-region [B] players in the midfield this year and that really means a lot. That's an important part of the field to cover."
Luna said it felt great the first day of practice, to finally be on the field with his teammates again.
"It just felt right playing here with all of them," Luna said. "We all have such a good chemistry."
The team's chemistry is another reason for the squad to have high hopes. The Generals have 10 seniors on the team who have been playing together since they were little.
Many of them have consistently played together in travel soccer and in pick-up games in New Market.
"We've got an older team and a lot of people know that. There is a chemistry," Stonewall Jackson coach Caleb Golladay said. "This is a big family and that's how I see it. Treat your team as your family. We grow on the field as a family and we're going to go far. That's just how this works."
The team had a chance to grow in the offseason through two indoor soccer league sessions at the Sportsplex in Winchester. The league consisted of various high school teams throughout the area, including Group AA schools Millbrook, Sherando and Handley.
The Generals went through both sessions undefeated.
"You can measure yourself against good double-A teams," Juarez said. "The last couple years we've been struggling [in the league], we haven't been the best. But this year we beat everybody quite easily, so I think that can sort of translate to how you go into the season."
Luna said he felt the toughest competition came from Millbrook.
"They're just so big," Luna said. "We're definitely a small team. We didn't get scared by their size or anything."
Another key component to the Generals' season could be having Golladay as a coach. Golladay is in his first year, replacing long-time coach Nate Hissong. Golladay graduated from Stonewall Jackson in 2010, and currently plays at the college level at Eastern Mennonite University. Golladay also served as a volunteer assistant on the team the last two years.
He also was a teammate of Luna's, and knows all of the players on his team very well. Golladay said he was a little worried about how the team would respond to him as a coach.
"I was really surprised after the first week with how well everything went," Golladay said. "And how everyone responded and respected me as a coach, as opposed to just their friend. That was the biggest thing for me."
"He seems like he's a veteran coach already, just the way he talks to you," Juarez said. "It still feels like we have Hissong. He takes charge and he's definitely a coach. I think that's awesome, though, that you can definitely look up to him as a coach."
Golladay's experience at the state level will also be beneficial. He played on the last Stonewall Jackson team to advance to the state tournament (2010).
"He knows the system," Juarez said. "He knows what it means to go to the state tournament. He knows how to get there."
For Golladay, the success of the Generals' season will come down to hard work and chemistry. He said he sees a lot of similarities between this year's team and the last two teams to make it to the state semifinals.
"They've been together and the last two teams that have gone through Stonewall that have played together since they were young have done big things," Golladay said. "There was the 2006 team, and then you had the class I graduated with in 2010. We had one great year and the  class had a great year. And I expect the same out of this team."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org