All-Empire Small School Boys Soccer: Iturbe leads Knights’ charge

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Roseland Prep senior soccer midfielder Michael Iturbe. (Scott Manchester / The Press Democrat)

Roseland Prep senior soccer midfielder Michael Iturbe. (Scott Manchester / The Press Democrat)

Roseland University Prep went from good to great in boys soccer and Michael Iturbe set the standard.

Leading the Knights to the section title game, Iturbe was a midfield marvel and the Empire Small School Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

“We set our motivation high,” Iturbe said. “I had to be more of a team player. I was more positive and tried to motivate people to practice and play harder.”

Those qualities elevated an already fit and skilled Iturbe from a second-team All-Empire selection as a junior to the best in small school soccer his final prep season.

“We needed a leader and Michael stepped up. On the field he was great,” said Roseland Prep coach Augustin Fonzeca. “It made my job much easier.”

Roseland Prep’s first task was to win the NCL II in order to secure a high seed in the North Coast Section Division 2 playoffs.

The work began with replacing Roberto Macias, last year’s Empire player of the year. Fonzeca challenged Iturbe to fill those shoes.

“It was quite an adventure. It was my motivation to succeed,” Iturbe said. “We were really competitive with each other. We always wanted to see who could come up with the big plays.”

Plenty of teammates challenged Iturbe for game ball honors this season. He gladly contributed.

“We had a pretty good team. Other teams couldn’t focus on Michael. He knew what his teammates could do,” Fonzeca said.

Practicing harder than anyone else prepared Roseland Prep for success.

“This year I told the team how important that was. They did buy into it,” Iturbe said.

“They wanted to win.”

Challenging practices, particularly the day before games, helped shape the Knights into a physically and mentally tough squad.

“If we were going to lose it couldn’t be because of fitness,” Iturbe said.

Expecting to win, Roseland Prep needed a short memory for the few times the Knights came up short.

“I kept my mentality high and to be positive,” Iturbe said. “The players see that and work hard to not make the same mistakes.”

In setting an example in practice and play, Iturbe was at first unselfish. Running the midfield, controlling balls with physical play, Iturbe anchored the Knights on both sides of the field.

Iturbe was the Knights’ hardest worker between the 18-yard lines.

“He never quit. And that was great for the younger kids to see,” Fonzeca said.

Not even a bruised foot late in the season would slow down Iturbe.

Driving the senior leader was a quest for the section title and a shot at playing on in college.

“We knew we had the potential to be one of the best teams in RUP history,” Iturbe said. “Overall I just tried hard and wanted to bring the team with me.”

The result was a stellar soccer season. In addition to winning a third consecutive league title, the Knights advanced beyond the second round of the section playoffs.

“That was a big hurdle. We didn’t want it to end,” Iturbe said.

Rolling to three section wins by a combined score of 12-3, the Knights were ready for longtime power Marin Academy.

Roseland Prep would fall in the championship contest.

“It felt great to make it all the way to the finals. The result wasn’t what we wanted,” Iturbe said. “But we went even higher than expected.”

Finishing the season 22-3-3, the Knights were proud. Iturbe was a prime factor, one of the Knights’ best ever.

“He’s got to rank up there. He played a big role in the school’s best season ever,” Fonzeca said.

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