All-Empire large schools boys soccer player of the year: Tarwinder Purewal

2014-15 large schools boys soccer player of the year Tarwinder Purewal of Petaluma High School. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

2014-15 large schools boys soccer player of the year Tarwinder Purewal of Petaluma High School. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

When assistant coach Rob Brockman died of a heart attack last April, the Petaluma boys soccer players were stunned. Senior midfielder Tarwinder Purewal, in particular, took the loss hard. It was Brockman who had paced the Trojans on hill runs, offering life lessons between breaths, and delivered so many memorable halftime speeches.

Before their first game this year, Purewal beckoned his teammates and asked them to drop their knees. They linked hands and offered a moment of silence for Brockman. It became a ritual before every game. Purewal also began leading the other players in group pushups, as Brockman used to.

More audacious, Purewal approached Brockman’s wife, Karen, at the memorial service and told her Petaluma would win the Sonoma County League title to honor his memory.

Considering the Trojans hadn’t won an SCL championship since 2006, it was quite a promise. But Purewal and his teammates delivered, putting together a 15-4-2 season and winning a playoff game before losing to North Bay League champ Rancho Cotate in the quarterfinals.

Purewal is our Large School Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year, not for his heartfelt gesture toward his fallen coach, but because he had the qualities to help make it a reality.

“He shows an amazing ability to distribute the ball, and he’s another coach on the field as well,” Petaluma coach Greg Lamansky said. “I have not seen a player in a long time who has the defensive strength that he does. He does not lose tackles. He’s very quick to the ball, and once he does win the ball, his ability to distribute it is unparalleled in our league.”

Purewal credits his brother Parwinder, six years his elder, for his soccer proficiency, and for much more.

“He was the driving force,” Tarwinder Purewal said. “We’re super close. He taught me everything — how to be a better person, how to live a better life. He motivated me when I was younger.”

Petaluma began the 2014 season in a base 4-4-2 formation — four defenders, four midfielders, two forwards — but struggled in its first tournament. Purewal and some other key players suggested switching to a 4-5-1 and Lamansky was quick to consent, as he prefers the 4-5-1 anyway.

Purewal was the beginning of the back line of defense in the Trojans’ alignment. More important, he was the transition between defense and offense. When the ball flowed across midfield for Petaluma, more often than not it was on Purewal’s foot.

“I like to have it at my pace and make my decisions,” Purewal said. “I’m a defensive player, so I think defense is the key. … But I don’t play just defense. I have to make my way all the way up, and if we lose possession, get all the way back.”

Despite his defensive emphasis, Purewal had three goals and five assists for Petaluma.

Fortunately for the Trojans, he is well conditioned for the task.

The senior said he tries to play soccer two or three times a day. He plays with the Petaluma United soccer club, an Indian team (Purewal’s family is Punjabi-American) and a Fijian team in addition to his high school squad. He has two free periods as a senior at Petaluma High, and tries to fill them with pickup soccer at Lucchesi Park or elsewhere.

“At this point, it’s not just a sport,” Purewal noted. “I’d literally say it’s a life.”

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter
@Skinny_Post and read his 100 Percent blog at http://110percent.blogs.pressdemocrat.com

  • Bryan Fisher

    Excellent choice of Tarwinder Purewal for Large School Boys Soccer Player of the Year. I’m glad to see that a defensive player is getting some kudos. We saw Petaluma at #1 Rancho Cotati for the quarter-final NCS game, and Tarwinder definitely stood out, as the Trojans gave the Cougars a huge scare, taking it to the last kick (tick) of the clock. Congratulations Tarwinder — Well Deserved!