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Zoltowski named 3A SWL coach of year

Bayfield’s new upperclassmen make league’s first team
Bayfield's Guillem “Willy” Roca, a foreign-exchange student from Barcelona, Spain, chases after an unclaimed ball during road action at New Mexico’s Kirtland Central. Roca recently earned a first-team all-league honor for his efforts this season. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Though his team’s season didn’t have the ending that had appeared within reach, other 3A Southwest League boys’ soccer bench bosses took notice of Bayfield’s improved play this fall and voted Chris Zoltowski coach of the year.

The Wolverines finished a runner-up 4-2 in SWL action, but because of a late five-match losing streak, just 6-9 overall. During the slide, which denied the squad a postseason berth, BHS lost three matches by just one goal and another by two before managing a 5-0 season-ending home rout of Alamosa. Bayfield ended up with 35 goals for and 35 against as the program reemerged after going 0-6 SWL, 0-9 overall during the COVID-shortened spring campaign.

Bayfield head coach Chris Zoltowski greets Guillem “Willy” Roca (19) — plus his host parents Jordan and Sage Frane — on Senior Day, Oct. 20 inside Wolverine Country Stadium. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

“It took months of work, but it’s worth it,” Zoltowski said. “I mean, I’m really happy to be part of the program … but ultimately the best feeling for me is seeing our soccer family grow, become more united here in Bayfield.”

Bayfield's Shaw Foster splits a Kirtland Central double-team while pushing nearer the opposing Broncos’ goal during road action this season. Foster recently earned first team honors from the 3A Southwest League. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

“It feels great to be recognized by the league. But for me, though…it’s (about) the guys,” Zoltowski continued. “The guys you have and the work they put in; you (a coach) can only do what you do! Those guys, I feel … deserve (All-League) more than I.”

Having moved to Bayfield from Yucaipa, California, junior Shaw Foster paired with foreign-exchange senior Guillem “Willy” Roca to create one of the SWL’s most potent 1-2 punches. Both Wolverine newcomers were named first team all-league.

“We support each other, we both go for it at the same time, and it just works out … pretty much,” Foster had said during the season, discussing the rapport he and the Spaniard quickly created during their mutual first season at BHS. “We’ve both had similar backgrounds in soccer, and just know where each other is on the field.”

“It’s been really awesome,” said Roca. “I’ve really enjoyed this season … and think it’s one of the best I’ve ever played.”

“I think Willy really brought what ‘passion’ for the sport truly is,” Zoltowski said. “And I think he was able to pass it on to a lot of the players – you see them now, after the season, continuing to work and continuing to get better.”

“I would say it’s been since the 2016 team that we’ve had a leader like we have in Shaw,” he added. “Strong ... fast … physical, and most importantly a leader. When he had the guys in a huddle he talked to them, fired them up before a game, talked to them during a game.”

Bayfield's Andy Monger (10) passes away from a Bloomfield, N.M., pursuer. Monger was one of three Wolverines that earned an honorable mention from the league. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Bayfield senior Caleb Donelan was one of three Wolverines receiving all-SWL honorable mention distinction, along with juniors Gavin Larson and Andy Monger.

“I think it’s a good step into really developing the soccer program,” Donelan said of the season as a whole, knowing most of the roster can return in 2022. “These guys are all about the same age, and I think it’ll work out well for them in the future.”

“I might be a little biased but it does feel like I helped a bit, being captain,” he added. “And that feels great.”

“You know, they’ve grown a lot,” Zoltowski said. “They’ve really learned to love the game, and I feel next year they’re going to carry it on, that passion. The team … they have cohesion and look out for each other – I’d mentioned at our end-of-season banquet how they’ve inspired me with their commitment towards each other.”

The league’s player of the year honor went to Kaylor Christians of Pagosa Springs, and goalkeeper of the year went to his teammate, Christopher Young-Martinez. The Pirates fell 6-0 against Peak to Peak in the 3A state tournament’s opening round of 32.

Additional first-team all-SWL: Pagosa Springs, Ethan Mazur, Gabe Gallegos and Kelton Christians of Pagosa Springs; William Lipke, Rivaldo Francisco and Johnathan Ramirez of Alamosa; Ben Byerly and Trinidad “L.T.“ McDonnell of Montezuma-Cortez.

Additional honorable mentions: Kameron Winkler and Joah Dunn de Pulido of Pagosa Springs and Noah Lederer of Cortez.

Final 3A Southwest standings: 1.Pagosa Springs (5-1 SWL, 11-5 overall). 2.Bayfield (4-2, 6-9). 3.Montezuma-Cortez (2-4, 3-11), 4.Alamosa (1-5, 2-12).