Last year the Phoenix Pirates won the Skyline Conference and finished runner-up at the State Championship. After that incredible season, the Pirates lost 12 players.
“It is definitely last year’s JV team,” said head coach Dennis Flenner, “and I don’t want to belittle the fact that they don’t think that they’re last year’s JV team. This year they’re ready to play.”
This team of mostly juniors is indeed up for the challenge. They’re currently undefeated in league play and #1 in the state in RPI.
“Honestly I thought that we were gonna struggle too, because we’re losing twelve seniors,” said John Esqueda, “but we’ve just grown so well and we’re adapting to the whole teamwork and the whole team effort really well.”
Johnny Esqueda is adapting to playing without his brother Junior, last year’s Skyline MVP.
“He’s one of the greatest soccer players I’ve ever seen,” said Esqueda. “I’m not saying that because he’s my brother. He’s really a very great soccer player, and he’s a good brother. He just showed me how to motivate people and how to lead teams.”
Like his older brother, Johnny is now the Pirates’ captain.
Flenner says, “He’s so full of spark and vinegar. I mean, he’s very aggressive, he’s very quick, very talented, and offensively he’s a huge threat.”
All of this despite the fact that he’s a bit undersized.
“I started playing when I was ten and then I always played with my brother’s team since he was two years older than me,” said Esqueda. I always played two years up. Since a young age, I’ve learned how to play against bigger and stronger people. I feel like that’s just helped me a lot this year.”