For five area seniors, there really is no place like home as they close out their high school soccer careers in the All-State games at Muscogee Creek Nation Field at Indian Bowl.
Zach Cobler, Daniel Mielnik and Zach Peterson will represent Fort Gibson in the Class 4A game while Tahlequah’s Saul Medina is on the 5A East roster while David Espinoza of Muskogee is on the 6A East squad.
When Espinoza, the 2014 All-Phoenix Offensive Player of the Year, heard that not only he had made the squad but the game was going to be on his home field, he was thrilled.
“It’s pretty exciting this being my last year and my last game on my home field,” he said. “I get to have a lot of people there not just watching me but to come and support me.”
Espinoza, who will play collegiately at NOC-Tonkawa, scored 14 goals and dished out 10 assists, leading the Roughers into the postseason for the first time since 2010. He said he owes a lot of his personal success to the people who surrounded him.
“If it wasn’t for my teammates. I wouldn’t have had some of the success individually, Espinoza said. “Like scoring goals against teams I never expected to score against – Owasso, Broken Arrow and Bishop Kelley.”
Mielnik will be playing club soccer at Oklahoma State. The Phoenix Goalkeeper of the Year, is glad to have two familiar faces that he’s played with all through high school on the same sideline in Cobler and Peterson.
“I think it’s a big accomplishment for the school itself,” he said. “It just says how well we did this season and what quality of a team we have. I’m just very happy we managed to get all three maximum players to All-State.”
The Tigers’ goalkeeper, who was the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year and doubled as the football team’s kicker in the fall, finished his career 30 shutouts, nine coming this season, and recorded over 300 saves. He is grateful the trip to the All-State game is not that far from home.
“The most exciting part about it is I don’t have to drive that far,” he said. “More of my family and friends are going to be able to make it to the game. It’s going to be more family friendly for us.”
Zach Cobler finished his senior year as a captain for the Tigers with 12 goals and eight assists in helping Fort Gibson to back-to-back state semifinal appearances. He said he’s glad to have two lifelong teammates there with him in his final game.
“I’ve played soccer with those two pretty much my whole life,” Cobler said. “It just feels awesome that they’re there and they’re able to share the experience with me. I won’t feel like I’m out on an island.”
Cobler, who will try to walk on at Northeastern State, was really thrilled when he heard the All-State game was going to take place in Muskogee.
“I was dreading the drive if it wasn’t so close,” he said. “When my brother Eli was in it in 2012, it was three hours away. Last year, I think it was a couple of hours away. When I found out it was in Muskogee, I though it was awesome.”
That was the same sentiment expressed by Medina. The Tahlequah Tigers’ forward finished his season with 12 goals and five assists.
“I was happy for myself when I got chosen to do that,” he said when hearing about his All-State selection. “I’ll be more relaxed and ready to play on Friday since it’s close to home and hopefully will have a lot of family and friends there.”
Medina, who has yet to decide about his future after high school, expressed a somber tone when thinking back on his teammates and his experience at Tahlequah.
“The whole team got along really well,” he said. “My teammates and my coach were just fun to be around and I’ll miss that.”
All-State soccer at Indian Bowl
4A, 8 p.m. Today
5A, 8 p.m. Friday
6A, 8 p.m. Saturday
4A, 6 p.m. Today
5A, 6 p.m. Friday
6A, 6 p.m. Saturday