Cut two times by the Storm, he never gave up hope and now is a team leader
VANCOUVER — It took years of disappointment, frustration before Diego Villalpando could experience this joy.
As a freshman, he was cut after tryouts with the Skyview soccer team.
As a sophomore, he did not even go out for the high school program in the sport he loves.
As a junior, he gave it another try, only to be told he still was not good enough.
“I just wanted to be part of this team,” Villalpando said. “I kept trying, kept training, hoping I could make it.”
Training on his own. Playing on Sunday league teams. More training.
This year was going to be different, though.
This year, he made the team.
“Every time I put on Skyview gear, I train harder because I’m trying to represent the school,” he said.
This year, he did so much more than just make the team.
“He is our second leading scorer and one of our most dynamic players,” Skyview coach Colleen McKinney said. “Diego is the perfect example of how spirit, belief in one’s self, and high character can overcome adversity.”
Villalpando never blamed the coaches for their decisions. Instead, he used those decisions as motivation.
“I was pretty disappointed in myself,” he said, recalling that feeling his freshman year when he was cut. “I was disappointed in myself, but it pushed me to train harder.”
As a sophomore, he acknowledged his game was not ready, so he did not even try out for the squad.
He focused instead on coming out for Skyview soccer as a junior. Again, though, he was told he simply was not good enough.
“It felt like freshman year again,” Villalpando said.
Much like his freshman frustration, he turned his junior journey into more motivation.
“I decided to train a lot harder, eat better, and better myself for the next year,” he said.
He never blamed the coaches.
“They actually pushed me to train harder, play harder,” he said.
He said he knew, deep down, the coaches made the right decisions at the time. He was not ready. But he also used those decisions as fuel.
“Never give up. Keep on training. Try harder. Push yourself,” he said. “Just because someone says you can’t do it, you can prove them wrong.”
The perseverance paid off this season.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said of making the team. “First person I told was my mom. She was really excited, too. Finally, for my last year, I was able to join the team.”
That team won its second consecutive Class 4A Greater St. Helens League title, too, thanks in part to Villalpando. Skyview plays Rogers of Puyallup at 6 p.m. Thursday night at Kiggins Bowl in a bi-district playoff. The winner will qualify for the Class 4A state tournament.
Villalpando is one of the key players in this championship season at Skyview.
He had an overtime goal to beat Battle Ground in what turned into a crucial victory in the quest for a league title. Skyview had opened league play with a loss and was in overtime in that second match. A loss there could have changed the whole season.
Villalpando scored, and something incredible happened.
“The whole team ran to me,” Villalpando said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
The guy who was not good enough to be on the team a year ago was the hero in a crucial match.
“It was a really big accomplishment for me,” Villalpando said.
“Our entire team has learned from him,” McKinney said. “Think of that … never making the team until this year and now teaching through example to the same young men who are three-year varsity players. So amazing. So wonderful.”
In fact, Villalpando said his favorite thing associated with the season is not a single goal or a big victory. It is being part of the Skyview family.
“I’ve come in my last year, and I’ve been accepted by all the soccer players,” he said.
Because Diego Villalpando is soccer player, too.
This year, he became a Skyview soccer player.
Wednesday’s postseason highlights
Spencer Andersen and Jimmy Wallace combined to pitch a one-hit shutout, leading Ridgefield to a 1-0 victory over state power W.F. West in the semifinals of the Class 2A District 4 baseball tournament.
Clayton Madsen got a one-out single in the fifth inning, advanced to second base on a walk and eventually scored on an error for the only run of the game.
With the win, the Spudders have qualified for the state tournament.
Ridgefield will face Columbia River in the district championship game. Xavier Ulrich drove in five runs, leading the Chieftains to a 10-4 win over Tumwater in the other district semifinal.
The district title game is 5 p.m. Friday in Chehalis.
Meanwhile, Woodland beat Rochester 12-8 to remain alive in the consolation bracket. Woodland needs to win two games Saturday to qualify for state.
In the 4A bi-district, Skyview’s Kyle Olson drove in four runs, leading the Storm to a 9-2 win over Kennedy Catholic in an elimination game. The Storm are in the final four of the consolation bracket now and will play two games Saturday. They need to win one of those games to qualify for state.
In the 3A bi-district, Evergreen’s season came to an end with a 4-2 loss to Peninsula.
Seton Catholic fell 2-1 to Forks in the semifinals of the Class 1A District 4 boys soccer tournament. The Cougars will face Columbia White Salmon at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Seton Catholic in a consolation match that will determine a state berth.
La Center’s season came to an end Wednesday with a 5-0 loss to Hoquiam.
Track and field
The Class 4A and 3A District 4 track and field meet started Wednesday and will resume Thursday. We plan on listing every winner from both days in Friday’s roundup.