After suffering a foot injury just nine games into his junior season, Shaun Garcia was left to ponder his return to the Keller Fossil Ridge boys soccer after having left academy soccer.
But longstanding friendships and the promise of a strong senior year campaign left Garcia with no doubt it was the right move and worth the recovery time.
Garcia said he was able to reunite with his childhood friend, Jonathan Fernandez, among others.
“I’m glad I made the decision to play high school. I play with my best friend and others that are really close to me,” Garcia said before the 2017 season ended.
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He was able to get the final three games of his junior season under his belt, but his foot and conditioning were never fully where he knew they could be.
Garcia, who started out as a forward, was transitioned into an attack-mid role. Still, he accounted for eight goals and six assists before the Panthers headed into the opening round playoff game, a shootout loss to Fort Worth Paschal last Friday.
His role was being a continuity director – getting the two ends of the field transitioned appropriately.
“As a midfielder, I connect the defense to the forward,” Garcia said before the playoffs. His passing is what he considers his strongest skill set.
What Garcia has learned about connecting the team is also a product of connecting with the team.
The allure of academy soccer holds a lot of prestige, but Garcia knew there was something more waiting for him at Ridge. He spent two and a half years with his academy team.
“I just do everything for my teammates. I love those guys,” Garcia said. “I had never played high school (varsity) soccer until last year.
The Panthers seemed more connected as a group, too, Garcia said.
“We’re more of a team than last year. The team is having a good season and we have good results when we play together. We can’t be individuals,” he said.
With all the progress made since getting back on the field after surgery, Garcia said he still wants to improve on winning balls in the air.
“The secret is to be fearless. As a defender, you’re attacking the ball, and I try to use smarts to go around to the ball, but I feel sometimes as though I need more aggression in my play,” he said.
Garcia helped in a leadership role, too, keeping the Panthers composed after they fell back, 1-0, in the regular season finale against Abilene. They needed at least a draw to secure the second seed in the district.
Fossil Ridge came back to score and take the Eagles into a shootout scenario, but got the standing point they needed.
That same pressure was put on the Panthers’ back when they fell down to Paschal in the first half but were again able to even the score in the second half.
The Panthers went to two overtimes before losing 5-4 in penalty kicks to Paschal.
As this season ends, Garcia said he’ll spend more time evaluating opportunities to continue his soccer career.
“I’m dedicated to the sport and I want to see how far I can go in soccer,” he said.