Dimit expects Niwot to contend for title
August 18, 2017
It’s only a mild exaggeration to say that not much got past the defense of the 2016 Niwot boys soccer team. Led by keeper Mario Munoz, the Cougars allowed just 17 goals in 16 games, the second lowest total in the Northern League and eighth lowest in Class 4A.
On the other side of the ball it was a different story. The Cougars managed just 31 goals, and their inability to convert on scoring chances turned a potentially special season into merely a good one. Five of their seven losses last season were by one goal, and a very winnable playoff game against defending state champion Evergreen instead ended in disappointment, after the Cougars failed to score through regulation and two overtime periods and fell 4-1 in a shootout.
Niwot second-year head coach Stephen Dimit knows that his team will need to correct this imbalance if they are to avoid a third consecutive first-round exit from the Class 4A playoffs, and hopes that added speed on offense is the missing piece of the puzzle.
“We were excellent defensively in 2016, and we will look to continue that,” he explained. “In the first part of the season, we are working to build an identity as a quick passing and quick attacking team.”
Dimit has reason to be optimistic about this strategy. His 2017 squad features 12 returning varsity players, including seniors Jason Rodriguez (F) and Andres Montealegre (MF), two of last year’s leading scorers, as well as emerging standouts Davin Bala (F) and Dylan Campbell (F), who Dimit called “one of the fastest players in our league” following his stint on the Niwot boys track team last spring.
“Rodriguez and Montealegre can change a game with their creativity and skill on the ball,” explained the coach. “Bala has had a great summer and emerged as one of our leaders.” Rodriguez had 16 total points last season for the Cougars (six goals, four assists), while Montealegre had 10 points, and tied Rodriguez for most assists.
Joining them up front are seniors Cameron Carlson (MF) and Tyler Crall (F), as well as junior Jesus Gonzales (MF), who had 20 shots on goal as a sophomore in 2016.
Dimit’s defensive core is also returning for the 2017 season, led by Munoz, who was spectacular in his varsity debut last year. The sophomore keeper allowed just 15 goals in 16 games last season (1.061 goals per game), which was fifth amongst all Colorado sophomores. Also returning to the back field are seniors Nicholas Grant, Cam Lee, Max Towlen, and Abel Marrufo, who had four goals and two assists for the Cougars last year.
“Mario Munoz is one of the best goalkeepers in the area,” said Dimit of his top net-minder. He also had praise for Grant, now in his third year on the varsity squad, saying he gives the team “stability and a strong presence in the back.” The Cougars will be without the services of last year’s backup keeper Stian Cattell-Ravdal, who is in Norway for the year, but Dimit said he is “encouraged to have a group of young players who are stepping up to learn the position.” He hopes to have a number-two goalie in place after the first week of the season.
Though this year’s varsity squad is top-heavy with upperclassmen, Dimit is excited the overall depth of the program. Approximately 60 boys came out for soccer this year, enough for both a junior varsity and freshman/sophomore team. Long-time Niwot assistants Brett Butrick and Jeremy Drake will assume coaching duties for the younger teams.
“Our freshmen and sophomore classes…are really impressive” Dimit said. “They are going to be pushing these upperclassmen every day.”
Overall, Dimit said he expects Niwot to be in the running for the “wide open” Northern League title this year, though Silver Creek and Centaurus will be strong contenders as well. Last year, the Cougars were 9-7 overall, but just 3-4 in conference. Niwot’s non-conference schedule features four playoff teams, which Dimit hopes will give Niwot an edge as the weeks grind on.
“We should have a good year, improving on last season,” he concluded. “We know we have a challenging schedule that will give us experience against good teams, and as long as we work to improve our play every week, we should be well prepared for a deep playoff run.”
The Cougars kick-off the 2017 season on Thursday, Aug. 24 at home against the Skyview Wolverines.