Defending state champs, Ontario boys soccer team back for another season

ONTARIO – With two games on the books, the soccer season kicked off last week. 

The Ontario High School boys soccer team made history last season when it won the school’s first state soccer title.

Last year, the Tigers edged out Phoenix 1-0 in the championship game.

Ontario returns many players from that championship team, but there are some new faces, too, according to Daniel Dominguez, the team’s head coach. Those returning players include Martin Benites, a senior, Kyler Ramos, a sophomore, Hayden David, a junior, Sebastian Garfias, a senior and Juan Garcia-Cerezo, a senior.  

Ontario ended its championship season with a 6-0 league record and went 13-1 overall.

Every team in the 4A division, Dominguez said, likely has an entirely different roster than last year.  

“I am sure no team has stayed the same as last year,” Dominguez said. “I could be wrong, but this is a brand new year.”

That means the team needs to put in the work, he said. This time of year, early in the season, the focus is on the fundamentals of the game: first touch, second touch, passing and shooting.

So far, Dominguez said the chemistry of his squad is good. He said players on the varsity and junior teams have shown up to practice, ready to do the work.

The squad ended their contest Saturday, Aug. 26 against Four Rivers in 0-0 tie and fell to Weiser 3-1 Thursday, Aug. 24. 

A key element of the success of Ontario’s soccer team has been the revival of the nonprofit Ida-Ore Soccer Club.

In 2015, brothers Javier and Jaime Gonzalez re-booted the youth soccer league. Dominguez said the idea of reviving the club was to teach kids the fundamentals of soccer before they reached high school.

Dominguez pointed out that the Ida-Ore had to go on a years-long hiatus due to the pandemic. Because of that, he said, some of the freshmen players are the last set of boys who benefited from that program.

This summer, the Ida-Ora Soccer Club had its first full season since the pandemic. The boys team won the league title.

Dominguez said the goal is to finish at the top of the Greater Oregon League, which includes Baker/Powder Valley, La Grande and Pendleton.

The team faces Henley at home on Friday, Sept. 1. League play kicks off Tuesday, Sept. 19, when the team goes on the road to face Pendleton.

Meantime, the squad needs to work and keep improving, he said.

“It was nice to win a championship. It was good,” Dominguez said. “But that was last year. We have to focus on this year now.”

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