Editor’s note: This story is part of The Chronicle’s 2023 fall sports preview special section. To see the full issue, grab a copy of the August 31 edition at any local Dari Mart today, or give us a call at our office: 541-515-6233.
SPRINGFIELD – There’s a new face at the top of the Springfield girls soccer team. Alyssa Hinojosa takes over the program after being an assistant coach on last year’s squad. Last year wasn’t just Hinojosa’s first year of assisting Springfield, it was her first year of any coaching experience.
“It was good because I got to do more of the tactical stuff, and the technical stuff. I got to help out a little bit with the lineup and where girls would probably look best, but it was more of a support role,” Hinojosa said. “That was my first year with the team, and with any program, so it was a huge learning thing for me. So it was good that I did take that back seat capacity, because it helped me so much for this year.”
Hinojosa, a University of Oregon soccer player from 2016-19, takes over a team that went 9-6-1 last year and earned the No. 6 seed in the playoffs. But they also lost 10 seniors from that team, five of whom earned all-league honors.
“It’s gonna be tough to replace the experience. You have that many seniors playing, that was like a whole starting lineup,” Hinojosa said. “We have young people coming who haven’t played varsity, and a lot of our team doesn’t play club sports.”
Those 10 seniors weren’t the only ones who graduated. So too did former head coach Cliff Schutte, who left the program after seven years. After coaching the successful group of seniors, Hinojosa said Schutte felt it was the right time to step away as well.
That left the door open for Hinojosa, who was nervous about taking the job.
“It was hard, because I didn’t think I could in the first place. But I see a lot of girls here who look just like me, who come from backgrounds just like me, and there was a need for a position to be filled,” Hinojosa said. “I share a lot of the same similarities as them growing up, so it would be out of character for me to say no to an opportunity like this.”
So Hinojosa took the job, and after a short amount of time, she feels she made the right decision.
“I learned more about myself now that I’m done with college sports,” Hinojosa said. I had a great career at Oregon, and all I ever did growing up, since I was like three years old, was soccer. So they’re helping me recognize and find out who I am.
“Entering a head coach role, I want them to have the experience that I didn’t have, or things that I thought I was missing at some points in my coaching. I think they’ve, in this one week so far, done more for me than I think I’ll do for them this whole season.”
Hinojosa admitted it’s a rebuilding year after losing almost the entire starting lineup from last season. That said, she’s excited to see who steps up.
“We have girls that are gonna do great this year, people who are going to step up,” she said. “When big roles open up, you’re curious who’s going to step up to the plate. So we have some girls that I think will do great for us this year.”
Two of those girls are returning impact players from last year. Junior Elidia Cervantes-Carlos returns after making first team-all league last year.
“Last year, she was a very great player, and she’s gonna run our midfield,” Hinojosa said. “She’s just a very technical player that you rarely see. I don’t know if anybody else in our conference has someone like her.”
Senior Lydia Stewart returns as well. Hinojosa said Stewart is an athlete that is willing to outwork everyone else, and Hinojosa said of Stewart: “She’ll be a great leader because she’ll lead by example.”
Replacing 10 seniors and an experienced head coach means there will be a learning curve this season for everyone involved. It’s why Hinojosa set a realistic goal – achieving a .500 record.
One thing the team’s already has going for them though is their togetherness.
“We have so many different classes on this team. The freshmen haven’t started school yet, and they automatically have 15 other best friends. So that’s been cool, that camaraderie, that friendship building already, and it’s only been two weeks,” Hinojosa said.