BOULDER — Hardy Kalisher was well aware of the skills owned by senior Luis Castruita. And while Kalisher had barely seen Castruita’s cousin, Javier Castruita, in action, the rumors and playground legends surrounding the depths of Javier Castruita’s skills were beginning to reach mythical proportions.
Last spring Kalisher had wandered over to the Boulder gym due to the urgings of an enthusiastic PE teacher who was raving about Javier Castruita’s skills in a class pickup game. While Kalisher was impressed, he remained uncertain how to assess a dominating performance in a pickup game against somewhat indifferent opponents, several of whom were wearing jeans.
It wasn’t until Kalisher shared a conversation this summer with Brook Assefa, Boulder’s captain two seasons ago and currently a redshirt freshman on the soccer team at Fort Lewis College, that Kalisher understood the level of talent that apparently was finally joining the Panthers’ program.
“(Assefa) gave me a call and said, ‘You know, the best player at Boulder High doesn’t play,'” Kalisher said. “I said, ‘Who’s that?’ He said, ‘Javier, Luis’ cousin.’ We have great guys on the team and other guys that are down playing with the Rapids (Academy). I said there was no way. He said, ‘I just got done playing a summer pickup game with this kid. You’ve got to talk to him.’
“I talked to Luis and kind of figured out who his friends were that were already out. Luis said he wasn’t interested. I joked to the other guys on the team that their spots on the team might be in jeopardy if Javier doesn’t come out.”
Javier Castruita did indeed come out, and by finally joining the Boulder soccer team, he not only has helped create a lasting family memory — getting to compete one season on the Panthers’ varsity squad with his cousin Luis — but he also has been one of the key figures in Boulder’s drive into the Class 5A state quarterfinals. The Castruita cousins and the rest of the sixth-seeded Panthers (11-6) will vie for a berth in the Final Four when they host No. 19 Rock Canyon at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“My motivation was to try something new,” said Javier Castruita, a junior. “Luis was one of my big supporters. He’s the one I came to tryouts with. I was playing with adults and I wanted to see what I could do against guys my own age. Luis was my biggest supporter.”
Luis Castruita, a senior, is a second cousin to Javier, as their respective fathers are first cousins. Javier Castruita’s father and the father of Boulder freshman Brian Castruita, who was a dominating force on the Panthers’ JV team this year, are brothers, making that duo first cousins.
“It’s better having your cousin next to you, because you know how he plays and everything,” Luis Castruita said. “We’ve been playing our whole lives together on adult teams and things like that. We know how to play together, so I think we play pretty good soccer together in the midfield. Here we are in the quarterfinals and we’ll see how it goes.”
Although Luis Castruita opted to not compete with the Panthers last season, he has returned for his senior year to make valuable contributions to Boulder’s run to the Front Range League championship.
After spending years playing passionately, though obscurely, with his family members in adult leagues, Javier Castruita has discovered he more than measures up against players his own age. After a slow start to the season the junior midfielder has scored four goals while emerging as one of Boulder’s most adept playmakers. Castruita ranks second on Boulder’s squad with seven assists and has recorded two assists in each of the Panthers’ first two state tournament games.
It was Javier Castruita’s pinpoint pass that set up Mason Douillard’s winning goal with 46.5 seconds remaining in Boulder’s second-round match Monday against Chatfield.
“I’m dedicated this season to (Luis) for being a senior and making me try out and having this great season,” Javier Castruita said. “I hope that Brian gets to play with me next year.”
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