BOULDER — The innovation and intuition Javier Castruita displayed on a consistent basis was the product of years of pickup soccer and the challenge of playing against adults in recreational leagues throughout his youth.
A little bit of coaching, then, and Castruita turned into a player. In doing so, he transformed into the catalyst of a Boulder High offense that won one state title and came very close to another.
In 2013, the Panthers were exceptional from one end of the pitch to the other as they reached the Class 5A Final Four. Though a title repeat came up two wins short, Boulder was at the head of the class of teams in Boulder County, and Castruita was the student eager to be tested by any defender in the state.
For his ability to handle the task of guiding one of the top offenses in the state as well as provide some timely goals himself, Castruita has earned the 2013 BoCoPreps.com boys soccer Player of the Year award.
The soft-spoken senior had a tremendous campaign, notching 12 goals and adding nine assists for BHS. Head coach Hardy Kalisher saw him develop quickly from a raw talent to one who understood systems and was able to manage them.
“He learned how to play a specific role on the team and learn how to play tactically within a system,” Kalisher said. “How to not only be good himself but also use his skill to make the players around him shine and be even better. This year, we played through Javier and let him be the creative player to set up the attack. He also learned that the measure of a truly fine soccer player is what they are doing without the ball. His defensive effort really improved, as well.”
With so many pieces in place in 2012 when he first came on, Castruita’s role was not as centralized or pronounced. In 2013, he became the instrumental midfielder, helping forwards Mason Douillard and Matteo Wilczak find ample scoring opportunities.
That junior season of 2012 marked the first time Castruita had received direction from a coach, and it opened his eyes to what soccer could be all about.
“We didn’t do any conditioning, you just showed up and played and that was practice,” Castruita said. “Hardy taught me how a good player becomes, how when you practice you become a better player and you show it on the field.
“I grew as a player, and I was more of a leader rather than just another player on the field. I talked a lot more and helped out my teammates a lot more.”
And he scored more, too. The 2013 season started off with a bang, as Castruita tallied a goal and an assist against a very good Heritage team in a 3-2 victory. He piled up assists throughout the season, and his goal production went up in October and carried through the playoffs, right when the defense was directing a 971-minute shutout streak. In three games between Oct. 10 and Oct. 15, Castruita notched eight goals.
He always seemed to be in tune with Douillard’s speed as BHS had an incredibly strong attack from the middle and right sides.
The skill he brought immediately added to the team, but perhaps even more so was the addition of his character, Kalisher said.
“He is a young man that is looked up to by over 80 boys in the program, and I think his peers around the school, too,” Kalisher said. “Just setting that example of that every day, every practice, incredible work ethic and playing through a lot of challenges.”
The stats he gained did not carry a lot of weight to Castruita when things were said and done. He could have continued to impress the adults he was playing with in the rec leagues with his savvy dribbling and heads-up passing. But in his eyes, joining the Boulder program gave him another opportunity in life, one that he will never forget.
“I got to meet people that became family to me, people who showed me that there’s a lot more to playing just soccer. There’s a lot more effort you have to put into it,” Castruita said. “It changed how I saw high school.
“There’s a lot of thinking about going to college and being the first person in my family to go to college. I would like to go to college and do more with soccer.”
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