MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Last week at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., the Combat Center’s Varsity Soccer Team competed in the 2008 West Coast Regional Soccer Championship and placed a respectable fifth place.
While the team may not have claimed the title, competing in the tournament showcased two outstanding talents in Jorge Hernandez and Edwin Contreras who were selected to attend the All Marine Soccer Team camp trial in the coming months.
Walter Sosinski, the athletic director at MCAS Yuma, said Mario Morales, the assistant coach of the All Marine Soccer Team, attended the tournament to scout for the Corps’ top soccer talent.
“He was looking for the skills, attitude and abilities to perform at the All Marine camp,” said Sosinski.
Morales was so pleased with the talent the tournament offered, he called Headquarters Marine Corps and requested authorization to select 15 players for the camp, instead of the usual 10, said Sosinski.
Contreras, an assaultman with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and Hernandez, a motor transport operator with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, are currently participating in the camp at Marine Corps Air Station, New River, N.C., with about 40 other Marines from throughout the Corps.
Contreras said his parents, who are big fans of the sport, got him into the sport when he was 6 and have supported his love of the game since.
“It’s been a passion of mine since I was little,” said Contreras, who also has experience with Club de Futbol Pachuca, a professional team that competes in Mexico’s top league.
Hernandez, a native of San Diego, said he too began playing the sport as a child and has competed at the high school level and participated in adult leagues.
Contreras explained that the camp is currently split into morning and afternoon sessions, with morning session concentrating on cardiovascular exercise and the afternoon session focusing more on ball skills, shooting and scrimmages against local civilian and military teams.
The native of Pico Rivera, Calif., who said he had faith in his ability to make the team, was also quick to praise the skills of his fellow Marines and believes the deciding factor in who makes the All Marine team will be more mental than physical.
“Everybody has skills. It’s just who really wants it and who puts out a little extra,” said Contreras.
While there is stiff competition during each session, liberty hours provide those in attendance with the opportunity to socialize and talk with each other, said Hernandez.
Both Contreras and Hernandez said they’re proud to be representing the Combat Center and Marine Corps in such a positive light.
“To be able to go out there and represent them at something that I’m good at is a great feeling,” said Contreras.
Both players expressed their happiness with being able to play the sport they love, and Contreras is even using the opportunity to revitalize his playing career.
He said attending the camp has given him confidence that he can play at the college level when he leaves the Corps to further his education.
If Hernandez and Contreras are selected to the All Marine Team they will travel to Dyess Air Force Base in Texas for the Armed Forces Tournament, slated for Feb. 1 through 9, where the team will compete against the other services.
“From there another 18 to 20 will be selected to the Armed Forces Team,” said Sosinski. “The Armed Forces Team will stay at Dyess Air Force Base and play other countries.”
Contreras said he estimates the All Marine roster will be finalized in late January or early February.