Milton Gallegos said he feels like he’s back at home coaching a soccer team in St. Helena.
The longtime coach had spent 17 years involved with both the boys and girls program at the high school before stepping away three years ago to spend more time with his family,
“I had a newborn son, two daughters under (age) 5, and it was just one of those things where I just couldn’t do the Fort Bragg trips and all that,” he said. “I just couldn’t see my kids at night sometimes.”
Gallegos eventually got back into coaching at Napa High, for which the travel was substantially easier than with the Saints, but he said the pull to return to St. Helena was ever-present.
So when the girls soccer head coaching position opened after last season, Gallegos jumped at the opportunity.
“The easiest way to put it is ‘I’m home.’ The moment I showed up here it felt like home,” he said. “I’m happy to be back.”
The feeling of being home is only made stronger by the fact the St. Helena soccer programs are now one big family affair: Milton’s brother, Ozzie, is in the midst of his third season as head coach of the boys team.
“It feels like we went in a circle,” Ozzie said. “We both went up to Napa High and now we’re right back where we started. He’s obviously trying to build the girls team and be successful at it, and I’m trying to do the same thing on the boys’ end.”
So far, their efforts have yielded some great results.
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With the girls’ 4-0 win over Clear Lake on Tuesday, they’re now 6-2 on the season and 5-2 in the North Central League I.
On the other side, the boys are off to one of their best starts in years. They, too, beat Clear Lake on Tuesday, 5-2, and are now in first place at 6-1. At 9-2-1 overall, they’ve also totaled their most wins in a season since they went 13-5 in 2007.
Making up a youth-heavy girls team this year are freshmen Rowan Laird, Kiara Munoz-Gonzalez, Eva Bowen, Mabel Wilms, Madeline Sullivan, Alice Wrede and Elizabeth Sandoli; sophomores Katherine Heffernen, Kaylee Moura, Alexandra Hill, Olivia Smith, Lindsay Caldera and Geneva Vallerga; juniors Cydney Adamson, Elizabeth Dunnington and Anahi Almanza Tapia; and seniors Marilyn Wilms, Marylu Avina Rodriguez and Emma Fife.
The boys team is comprised of Patrick Hamlin, Matteo Caldera, George Conwell, Diego Moya, Irwin Ramirez, Andre Perez, Aaron Cruz, Jordi Garcia, Mason Ellis, Erik Martinez, Jorge Meija, Raphael Nadalie, Henrik Wrede, Brandon Forgie, Caleb Granados, Justin Lopez, Gino Hanna, Charlie Carpy, Fernando Franco, Andres Velazquez, Juan Garcia and Alex Montanez.
Each program is flush with optimism, although for different reasons. With this being their third year under Ozzie, the boys feel they have some continuity that has led to a massive improvement in team chemistry. Ozzie sees that as being the main reason for their success so far this year.
“A lot of the underclassmen know the standards of (the upperclassmen),” he said. “So I just tell them we have to keep feeding this machine because winning is contagious, and once you get a feel for it, it just kind of carries over. We have good chemistry right now and that’s the important thing. Last year we started putting some wins together, but the chemistry wasn’t meshing as well.
“This year, I think from the ninth-graders to our seniors, it just feels different.”
As for the girls, they haven’t lacked talent in several years. Milton sees a foundation that he can help grow and build not just over the coming years, but right away.
“Based on what they’ve shown me, I think we absolutely have a shot (at winning league),” he said. “Am I guaranteeing it? No, but I think out of anybody in the NCL, I think we have an absolute chance to battle (Middletown). The talent we do have, even though we’re inexperienced, we absolutely have enough to battle for first.”