Victor Martin Gonzales has a confession to make.
The native of Avila, Spain, has an extensive background in soccer, having played, coached and even refereed at some of the game’s highest levels in his home country. He has lived the passion that is the European love affair with the world’s most popular game.
Thing is, he kind of prefers an alternate activity.
“I grew up playing two sports,” he said. “If I had to choose one, I would say volleyball.”
Good thing for Monte del Sol, he’s giving option No. 2 a shot. Hired in the offseason to take over as the head coach of the school’s boys soccer team, Gonzales is now in charge of one of the most talented small-school teams. Many observers have forecast a future that has the Dragons making another deep run into the Class 1A-3A state tournament in November.
“I hope so,” Gonzales said, unnecessarily apologizing more than once for an accent that is a dead giveaway to his home country. “I believe we have a very good team. It is the same players from last year and they are all a year older.”
Hired to replace Fritz Rothdach — “I was turning into an old man so it was time to go,” Rothdach said Tuesday — Gonzales is the third head coach in four years at Monte. Despite the turnover, the Dragons have become one of the best all-around programs in the small-school ranks, winning at least 10 games in six of the previous eight years. That includes a 14-4-1 mark a year ago that landed them in the state semifinals.
They return all the top players, including midfielders Moises Cerda and Pedro Chavez. The pair combined for 44 goals and 29 assists, making them one of the best 1-2 combos in the state.
But, just like all good stories, there’s a catch.
Monte del Sol athletic director Chela Butler got together with Gonzales and instituted a strict accountability code for getting players compliant with mandatory physicals and other off-the-field responsibilities. Without the proper paperwork filed and taken care of, no one is allowed to step onto the field.
The team’s first full workout was this week, but its second is still to be determined as the rest of the team slowly takes care of business.
“I wouldn’t say I’m more strict, but I do want things done,” Gonzales said.
He taught at the school last year and was given the recruiting pitch to join Rothdach’s staff. He declined, saying he needed time to settle into life at the school and in Santa Fe. Still, the itch was always there. He has had a desire to be on the sidelines since the moment he arrived.
“I would work with the team for free,” he said. “But my wife would not agree to that, so they pay me.”
When the team does managed to get its paperwork in order and comes together on the pitch, Gonzales likes what he sees. That’s also true of what he sees in himself.
“To be out here with the players, to be with them makes me happy,” he said.
Just think of how happy he’d be if he were Monte’s volleyball coach.