TIMES FILE PHOTO - Valley Catholic captain Victor Rodriguez is one of just four seniors on the squad this season.

In his three years as Valley Catholic head boys soccer coach, Mike Chertude said he has never had as much youth as he does with this year’s version of the Valiants.

With just four seniors on the squad, Valley is one the greenest teams in the Cowapa League, a squad that will feature inexperienced players at key positions around the pitch.

The Valiants’ silver lining, however, is that Valley’s skill level is arguably as high as it’s ever been during Chertude’s stint at the helm and the team’s industrious desire to compete is top-level.

“The main thing is just giving effort every game,” said Chertude. “That’s the one controllable in soccer. If you don’t give the effort, then nothing else matters. You’re going to have a bad day or a bad play. We want our team to work harder as the game goes longer. If we do that, we’ll be OK.”

Chertude said the players funneling through his system are adept at passing and moving off the ball, which is imperative in the Cowapa, a league that features bigger and stronger players that tends to feast on smaller, younger teams. In a nutshell, size matters, Chertude said. And, while Valley might be smallish in stature, the Valiants’ soccer shrewdness can make up for its size deficit.

“We have to play the ball quickly or we’re going to get crushed because we’re playing against bigger players,” said Chertude. “I believe in a good passing game, almost like basketball. If we hold the ball too long, then we’re going to get tackled by bigger players from Tillamook, Seaside, Astoria.”

Scappoose won the league title last year, but the Indians graduated many of their important stars. Astoria is a yearly juggernaut that has won the Cowapa title 12 out of the past 13 years. Chertude said Valley stacks up well with Tillamook and Seaside compared to last year.

Seniors midfielders Victor Rodriguez and Kyle Guthrie, and junior midfielder Bin Luu are Valley’s captains and will be called upon for passing and playmaking.

“They understand how I want them to play,” said Chertude. “They have to be leaders. They’re getting there and they’re understanding that message now. They’re buying in. We’re a team first at Valley. We’re one unit that has to believe in each other.”

Senior midfielder Alessandro Tubito is Valley’s go-to scorer, and for the Valiants to be successful, Tubito will need a monster year putting the ball in the back of the net.

“If he plays well, I think we’ll do very well,” said Chertude of Tubito. “If he struggles to score, then I think our whole team will struggle. He’s really the key. If he has the will and wants to play 100 percent all the time, then I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Freshman Phillip Miller won the starting goalkeeper job while freshman Quinn Schroeder and sophomore Rylan Torres start along Valley’s back line of defense. All three are noted club players who compete year-round. Their growth, along with Tubito’s production, are vital to Valley’s maturation this season.

“They’re talented and they know the game well,” said Chertude. “They’ll be playing against kids two or three years older than them, so we’ll see how they react. They’ve been pretty calm this far, meaning they’ve made the right decisions, but until you get into a game and see these big guys coming at you, you just don’t know.”

Sophomores Matthew Casale, Jake Saito, Ethan Hough, Tobias Irrgang, Garrett Gilbert and Braden Fisco, and juniors Noah Olson and Ian Zhu have also played early on for Chertude and Valley.

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