Getting to know the 2023 mens soccer team

To give a complete overview of the season, wlhsNOW staff hosted a mens soccer media day, which included portraits in the photo studio and individual interviews with the players. Scroll below to see each player’s profile, which explains each players’ backstory and individual outlook on the season.
To give a complete overview of the season, wlhsNOW staff hosted a mens soccer media day, which included portraits in the photo studio and individual interviews with the players. Scroll below to see each player’s profile, which explains each players’ backstory and individual outlook on the season.
Joseph Murphy

14 players from last year’s roster are returning. After finishing last year by losing in the first round of the playoffs, the mens varsity soccer team believes continuity is the key to success. Miles Miller, junior, is a defender for the team.

“It’s a lot different compared to this year,” Miller said. “We didn’t do the best, our record was 5-6-3, and we had a lot of young players. We had a lot of sophomores, [and] we had six freshmen. Ultimately, it wasn’t a super successful season, but it was a learning curve for everybody and that’s making us better this season.”

However, continuity doesn’t flow all the way through the mens team. This year, the team introduced new head coach Ryan Gates, the father of Quinn Gates, sophomore.

“I think he’s been very communicative with the players,” Miller said. “I’ve enjoyed talking to him, talking tactics, talking about what we can do better, [and] all these little conversations I have with him. It’s definitely a different feel than last season and a lot of that is credited to him and how it’s [starting] to shape this team.”

This year, the mens varsity team is contending for a state championship. Starting the year in the top ten in the 6A OSAA rankings, this year’s squad is looking for a bounceback. Gabe Valdes, senior, is one of the captains and will help lead the turnaround.

“I want to make a push at state,” Valdes said. “I think we have a shot to win the league and it’s my senior year [so it’s my] last chance. I think winning a state championship would be super cool.”

To give a complete overview of the season, wlhsNOW staff hosted a mens soccer media day, which included portraits in the photo studio and individual interviews with the players. Scroll below to see each player’s profile, which explains each players’ backstory and individual outlook on the season.

Quinn Gates
Quinn Gates

Quinn Gates, sophomore, began his soccer journey when he was in kindergarten. Similar to his peers at the time, he tried out several other sports before sticking with one. Influences in his life, such as his dad, led him to committing to soccer.

“I stick to soccer because my dad went [to West Linn High School] and he played soccer, and he’s the coach right now,” Gates said. “The stories he told kind of inspired me.”

Gates also takes inspiration for his performance on the field from famous defenders he likes to watch. 

“I think one of the better defenders that I like watching is [Virgil] van Dijk, and then there’s also Sergiño Dest, on the US national team,” Gates said. “I really like how van Dijk defends, but then I love the energy of Sergiño Dest and how he gets up the field and can just dribble anybody he wants.” 

Similar to the players he looks up to, Gates plays fullback.

“I started playing this position because it gets more in the action than a center back does, but it also focuses on defense,” Gates said. “The fullback position contributes to the team by giving width, and then also [by] being there for the center back to play.”

The 2023 season will be Gates’s second consecutive year on the varsity team. For him, tryouts were not uneventful. 

“We did the two mile and someone bet on me for $20 to see if anybody could beat me,” Gates said. “Luckily nobody did.” 

As for how he made the team, Gates advises that players looking to make varsity should practice in the off-season.

“Put in lots of work during the summer, because that’s when you improve the most,” Gates said.

Christian Inzunza
Christian Inzunza

Heading into his second season on varsity, Christian Inzunza, sophomore, plays defender.

He has been playing soccer since he was in second grade, and his mom introduced him to the sport.

“My mom took me to a field because she thought I should get some exercise, and ran me up to my coaches,” Inzunza said. “And I haven’t stopped since.”

As Inzunza continues to play on his club team, Oregon Premier Football Club, he aims to improve his career on varsity.

“I hope to hit a couple of assists and at least one goal,” Inzunza said. “Last year I got close to making a goal so this year I am hoping to get one.”

To this day, Inzunza recalls memories from his experience on the team during his freshman year.

“Last year, we had a last-minute goal at home and the stadium went crazy,” Inzunza said. “We were all running around to celebrate. It was definitely one of my favorite memories from the high school season.”

Last season, six out of the 25 varsity players were freshmen, including Inzunza.

“I came into [freshman] tryouts confident because beforehand, I was told freshmen were probably going to make the team,” Inzunza said. 

COVID-19, like with other sports, stopped all soccer practices. But for Inzunza, it meant branching out in different ways as a soccer fan.

“The family team that everybody roots for is Real Madrid and the Mexican team, America. But I ventured off on my own during [COVID-19] and started supporting Manchester City,” Inzunza said. “In first grade, I was watching soccer highlights and a highlight from Manchester City came up and I was like, ‘That’s my team’. It was during [COVID-19] that I really began to support them.”

Jack Jacobs
Jack Jacobs


Before a game, Jack Jacobs, sophomore, listens to his pregame playlist consisting of Drake and Travis Scott. Jacobs started playing when he was two years old but got into the competitive side of soccer when he was in middle school. This will be his second year playing varsity soccer. 

“A lot of it is confidence, because when you’re stepping out there it is real nerve racking,” Jacobs said. “If you just put in the work you will be confident in yourself and your ability.”

This year, Jacobs has goals to get more assists than he had in the past. He plays center midfielder and he likes this position because it allows him to make a pass or score a goal. 

“I met some really good teammates and friends along the way and won some games,” Jacobs said. “I just have overall really good memories.”

Jacobs’ idol is Lionel Messi as he looks up to him because of his accomplishments. Next year’s goal for Jacobs is to get as many minutes as possible and do well and he has hopes to play soccer beyond high school. 

Haakan Retzlaff
Haakan Retzlaff


Haakan Retzlaff, junior, started playing soccer when he was five years old. His main position is center midfielder.

“Soccer was one of the first sports I got into, and it kinda just stuck with me,” Retzlaff said. “Some of my favorite memories were scoring goals, making assists, winning tournaments, [and] traveling across the country.”

Retzlaff has been on the varsity team for three years.

“We lost [20] seniors my freshman year, so sophomore year was kind of like a rebuilding year,” Retzlaff said. “We kind of had a younger team but made it to the playoffs and we kind of had a surprising year.” Now that the team roster has changed again another season, Reztlaff’s would like to improve his game overall. 

“Some of my personal goals are to improve my soccer game all around, get my stats up, get some goals, get some assists, and just help my team in any way I can,” Retzlaff said.

Like some of his teammates, Retzlaff enjoys listening to music before games to help get himself prepared.

“I usually listen to rap, because it gets me the most hyped and locked in,” Retzlaff said.

Russell Dennis
Russell Dennis


During a game, Russell Dennis, senior, watches the field as a goalkeeper. Dennis started playing soccer when he was around five years old because his mom was coaching recreational soccer. 

“I never really had an interest in football, and all other sports were pretty inaccessible where I used to live,” Dennis said. 

In the second grade, he stopped doing recreational soccer and started playing competitive soccer. He took a break from soccer after sixth grade until his sophomore year when the team needed a JV two goalkeeper. Dennis decided to step up. 

As a goalkeeper, Dennis works to keep his whole team up to date on the latest information on the field. 

“I give the [team] information because I can see the whole field.” Dennis said. 

Some of his favorite memories from soccer come from away games. He has traveled with his team.

“All of us getting in a van and going all the way down to Medford and back and then making a difference in a game and coming all the way back up,” Dennis said. “It’s just a fun time.”

Beyond high school soccer, Dennis does not see himself as a collegiate athlete. However he plans to continue playing soccer in more casual leagues. He sees soccer for himself as more of a hobby.

Stephen Kereztes
Stephen Kereztes

Stephen Keresztes, junior, has played soccer for several years of his life. Before living in West Linn, Keresztes played on a team in New England.

“We were actually crazy,” Keresztes said. “Yeah, I was a goalie and I scored a corner kick. It was pretty cool.”

Previously playing goalie, Keresztes now plays striker.

“I’m at the top of the field, I get the ball passed to me and I score,” Keresztes said. “I like to score, I like to win.”

The 2023 season will be his second year on varsity. As a sophomore, he moved from JV to varsity halfway through the year, and made the team again for this season.

“This year there were some challenging obstacles because it’s tryouts, so it was tiring,” Keresztes said. “But I was on varsity last year, so it did help.”

Keresztes is one of 21 players to make the varsity team. Keresztes shared his secret to success and provided some advice for players aiming for a spot on varsity.

“Before the season even starts, definitely work on your finishing and passing and all that technical stuff.” Keresztes said.  “And then really just get your body conditioned, with stamina and stuff like that.”

Additionally, his own inspiration comes from famous soccer players such as Erling Haaland, a striker for Manchester City. 

“I definitely emulate Erling Haaland because he’s just big, strong. Just bulldozes kids,” Keresztes said.

In the future, Keresztes hopes to upkeep his skills and pursue soccer in college.

“I’d love to play D-1,” Keresztes said. “But who knows?”

Isaac Kensinger
Isaac Kensinger

Heading into his last high school soccer season, Isaac Kensinger, senior, plays striker for the. Last year, Kensinger was out for the majority of the season due to appendicitis and a fractured nose. Since recovering, he hopes to excel this season.

“This season feels like a fresh start to me,” Kensinger said. “I really want to be one of the top goal scorers on the team this year.”

Before joining the soccer team, all players must go through tryouts, a process where the athletes are tested by the coaches. Their performance dictates which team they will be playing on.

“Tryouts were hard but they were fun to be a part of,” Kensinger said. “I went in pretty confident but still nervous of what the outcome would be.”

Ever since kicking the ball around at six years old, Kensinger has participated in club soccer with Oregon Premier Football Club. 

“I got interested because it seemed like a fun and engaging sport,” Kensinger said. “When I first started, I remember making a lot of friends and winning tournaments with those teammates.”

Kensinger stopped participating in club soccer last year. To the junior varsity players hoping to make varsity next season, Kensinger suggests that players communicate with their coaches. 

“Try to talk to coaches as much as you can about what you can work on,” Kensinger said. “From experience, I can say that getting good feedback will help you improve.”

Outside of tips from coaches, Kensinger looks up to Aurélien Collin, a former French player who has played for eight different teams across Europe and America, to improve his soccer skills.

“He plays the same position as me, so I try to play like him as much as I can,” Kensinger said.

As for the future, Kensinger plans on not continuing with soccer in college because of personal interests.

“I want to have a more normal college experience,” Kensinger said.

Max Krider
Max Krider

Max Krider, senior, has been playing soccer since he was five years old. When he was in second grade, he transitioned from recreational soccer to club soccer.

“I remember, my [recreational] team couldn’t win a game the whole season,” Krider said. “Until our last game, which was on Halloween, and I scored a hat trick.”

As a senior, Krider plays fullback. However, that wasn’t always his plan. 

“Originally, I wanted to be a winger because Messi and Ronaldo were both wingers, and they would score and celebrate,” Krider said. “But then I ended up switching back to fullback.”

Krider’s first position was originally influenced by his idol at the time.

“[Growing up], Chrsitiano Ronaldo [was my inspiration] at the time,” Krider said. “But I’m not as big as a fan anymore. I’m more of a Messi fan now”

Krider’s goals for the 2023 season include creating opportunities for assists and scoring more often. 

“I definitely want to get a minimum of five assists this year,” Krider said. “Last year I didn’t have the best luck, but this year will be different.”

Warming up, Krider likes to listen to music to  prepare himself for the game.

“I love listening to Jazz music before a game,” Krider said. “All that hype music would normally get my nerves super high, so I think jazz calms me down more.”

Krider has now been on varsity for two years. However, in the future, he would like to play more casually.

“I did [varsity] last year but my plans have changed,” Krider said. “Now I’d rather play on a co-ed team or with my friends.”


Tristan Peia
Tristan Peia

Team captain Tristan Peia, sophomore, was raised playing soccer. For over 10 years, Peia has been playing competitively and after making varsity as a freshman, this will be his second year playing on the varsity team.

“[Being on varsity as a freshman] was nice,” Peia said. “I got to experience everything as a younger student.”

With his dad and his brother always having played at a competitive level, Peia has had exposure to soccer in his life. Since he was a kid, Peia has been playing soccer with his brother and his dad who always pushed him to be the best player he can be.

As a younger player, Peia often played defense as his main position. But as he got older, he branched out to other positions, and settled on playing midfield.

“I just feel like it fits my personality on the field, I like to dribble and I like to create goal chances,” Peia said. “I’m just a better midfielder, It fits my playing style better.”

After his first year on varsity, Peia has now come back as a captain. Peia hopes his presence on the team will help push the team to work together.

“I’m hoping to serve as a captain and just be nice and make everyone laugh,” Peia said. “Just help the team win.”

Moving forward, he is starting to think more about where he wants to take soccer as a career. 

“I am starting to showcase [at] college showcases and stuff,” Peia said. “So, I want to hopefully play college and then professionally if I can.”


Sohaib Bouika
Sohaib Bouika

Spanish transfer student Sohaib Bouika, senior, gained a spot on the mens varsity soccer team this year. Currently, he plays center back for the team.

Bouika began playing soccer around the age of six, with continuous aspirations of becoming a professional soccer player. Alongside role models like Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, Bouika’s father influences his passion for soccer as well.

“He’s like my coach, my nutritionist, he’s [someone] who helped me a lot in soccer,” Bouika said.

Majority of Bouika’s life with soccer began in Spain, where a significant memory for him was transferring to a professional soccer team.

“I was very proud of my hard work,” Bouika said. “I am very ambitious, while still working hard to [get] my dream job.”

But Bouika knows becoming a professional soccer player and committing to a sport is not easy. 

“Everything is hard work,” Bouika said. “It’s discipline, being ambitious. It’s not where you start, but where you end.”

For his team, Bouika adds elements of humor and team bonding. With involvement in soccer outside the U.S., his perspective gives his teammates another view on the sport.

“I think that I can add very funny moments because I love making jokes,” Bouika said. “Outside the field, I am a very friendly person. I am not the captain of the team, but I think that I am a very good leader. I help my teammates with the experiences that I have from Europe. So I try to help my team with communication and making good performances.”

With determination and hard work, he continues to apply these principles to teams across the globe, from Spain to the U.S.

“There are many people playing soccer in the world, and if you want to be different from the others, from the best, you have to use different things and habits,” Bouika said.


Matthew Hioe
Matthew Hioe

Matthew Hioe, senior, plays center back and has been playing soccer for most of his life.

“It all really started when I was like six years old,” Hioe said. “I tried basketball, I tried football, not my thing. So I tried soccer and actually enjoyed it when I was little, and stuck with it until now.”

Hioe’s love of soccer has led him to continue to put his energy towards the sport, up until now, and into the future.

“I like the idea that it’s a team game,” Hioe said. “iIt’s not really like one person makes the biggest difference, because everyone has to be solid together in order to be successful.”

Hioe is thinking about continuing to play soccer in the future, though not interested in playing at the collegiate level

“I do want to stay playing soccer because it is very fun to me and I’ve been doing it for so long,” Hioe said. ”Maybe in college I join a club team or something like that, just on the weekends or something.”

In the previous few seasons, Hioe has dealt with injuries in his ankles. In order to prevent further injury, Hioe goes through various routines in between games and practices. 

“I’m constantly just stretching after games,” Hioe said. “I have a bunch of rubber bands that I need to exercise with every day, every morning, every night before I go to bed right when I wake up. It’s like a tradition now. I’ve been doing it for like two years and [it] keeps me healthy.” 

Though Hioe isn’t a starter, he will look to help in any way he can.

“I’m just here to contribute as much as I can help the team,” Hioe said.

Zander Morris
Zander Morris

Zander Morris, sophomore, is a seasoned soccer player. Joining his first club team when he was five years old, Morris was the first of his family to play soccer.

“I remember the other team’s parents getting mad because I was really destroying their kids,” Morris said. “They told me to move up a year but I was already playing. It allowed me to develop my skill moves. It was really easy to beat people, so it was good.”

Morris is also a veteran. Joining the varsity team his freshman year, Morris will play a defensive position for the second straight year.

“It was kind of jumping into the deep end,” Morris said. “I enjoyed it. It was good to play at the highest level. I [learned I] could hang with the higher up players. I think it doesn’t really matter what age group people are, it’s just how hard we work.”

Besides his goal of winning a state championship, Morris has other goals where he looks to develop his skills in order to meet those goals.

“[I would like to] get listed on all-league lists [as] a personal goal,” Morris said. “[And] I want to develop my right foot a little bit more,” Morris said. “It’s good for passing but I want it to be as good as my left.”

Morris believes having a stronger right foot will help his overall gameplay.

“[I could] fake out the defender. I [could] go either way. I [could] cross the ball [and] shoot from the right side and that’d be improving my game,” Morris said.

To get ready to show off his skills, Morris indulges in pregame music. His favorite genre and era is 2000-2010 hip-hop.

“I don’t want any sad songs on there, but [I listen to] some 2000s 2010 Hip Hop,” Morris said. “Jay Z [is] probably up there. Even some Drake in there. NWA, I like to listen to [as well]. I find myself going back to like, straight out of Compton. Stuff like that.”

Miles Miller
Miles Miller

Having played soccer since he was three years old, Miles Miller, junior, has worked on his skills amidst a soccer family. Miller is the son of a former high school varsity player.

“My dad and I love the sport,” Miller said. “Once I started playing, I started watching it. I enjoyed it. I had friends that were doing it. And then that just kind of grew and grew over time.”

Playing in the defensive midfield, Miller is a starter on the varsity team. 

“I’ve played a bunch of different positions,” Miller said. “I played right back and left back and center back before. But I think my best position, or the position I played most is the defensive midfield.”

Having played on defense when he started competitive soccer, Miller has been accustomed to a defensive position ever since he started developing as a soccer player.

“It just suits my playing style,” Miller said. “When I was really young I was an attacker and then once I started getting more competitive, I was moved to center back for a while and then that just kind of mashed off being good on the ball from attacking and that defensive ability helped me be a better defensive midfielder.”

As a returning varsity player, Miller advises that JV players embrace their strengths. 

“You want to prioritize,” Miller said. “If you’re really good at shooting, then you really want to shoot. If you’re really good at passing, you want to get on the ball and you want to make those passes. At the end of the day, what determines most high school varsity games is not who’s better at their weaknesses. It’s more who can take advantage of their strengths.”

Isaac Babalai
Isaac Babalai

Isaac Babalai, sophomore, plays forward and he has been playing soccer for most of his life.

“I started playing soccer when I was five years old,” Babalai said. “I started playing because my brother played, and my dad played, so they both [encouraged me to] then I became good.”

Babalai also grew up watching professional players, like Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo.

“My favorite [soccer player] is probably Ronaldo,” Babalai said. “ I grew up watching him and I just like the way he plays.”

Babalai has been working with his team during the off season to improve.

“I’m pretty close with all of [the team]. They’re really good friends of mine,” Babalai said. 

Tryouts for the team included not only scrimmages, but also fitness tests. In order to keep himself ready for the season, Babalai trains specific skills.

“I’ll just be running, because that’s probably like my biggest weakness in fitness,” Babalai said.

Babalai thinks all of this can contribute to improving as a forward.

“I played [forward] because it suits me best,” Babalai said. ”I’m good at shooting the ball in the corners and exploring.”

As an active player on the field, there are opportunities for Babalai to make plays.

“Winning tournaments, scoring last arena goals, those are definitely like, the best feelings in soccer,” Babalai said.

As for how Babalai got on varsity, he recommends JV players dedicate themselves to the game.

“Just keep trying because one day you’ll make it if you just keep working hard,” Babalai said.

Gabe Valdes
Gabe Valdes

As a captain on the mens varsity soccer team, Gabe Valdes, senior, has high hopes for the incoming soccer season. After making it to the regional championships for the West Coast last year on his club team, Valdes has a goal of winning the state championship.

“I want to make a push out to state, I think we have a shot to win the league,” Valdes said. “It’s my senior year, my last chance, so winning a state [championship], getting on all-state teams, something like that would be super cool.”

Soccer has always been a part of Valdes’ life. Valdes looks up to his older brother, and considers him as a massive influence on himself and his passion for soccer. He hopes to continue playing soccer at the collegiate level.

On the field, Valdes is a center midfielder. But as a captain, his role involves leading and bonding with his team.

“Showing leadership to a bunch of the young guys coming in, who might not know how our system works in the family and culture we’ve helped build here,” Valdes said. “I think teaching the newer guys and guiding them and leading by example is a big part of it.”

Valdes has been a part of the varsity team for four years, and has advice for newer players on how to improve.

“Put your head down, put in the work,” Valdes said. “There’s not much you can control except yourself, so focus on getting better every single day and bringing a great attitude to practice, tryouts, games, and you’ll see the results.”

Ethan Caba
Ethan Caba

Having played with a number of the other varsity players for over a decade, Ethan Caba, junior, has good chemistry with the varsity team. Up until last year, Caba has played on JV. 

“I’ve played with a bunch of [the team] since I was maybe five years old for the same club team,” Caba said. “I got to make connections that lasted all the way out to the high school field.”

In 2021, the varsity team had 20 seniors. Now coming into  the second year of rebuilding the team, many of the players will have been playing with each other on the varsity team. Through this season and moving into next season, Caba is excited to work with the team to build connections and hopefully perform well at the state competition.

The state title is obviously the ultimate goal— something West Linn has never done,” Caba said. “We’re gonna have guys who are gonna have three or four years of Varsity experience, but by my senior year, I think that having that experience will be able to lead us to [a] state championship.”

Caba grew up playing soccer and was encouraged by his brother and his dad to be the best he can be. Caba is following in his brother’s footsteps and he has been playing midfield his whole life. 

“That’s what my brother played. That’s what my dad played [midfielder is] my favorite position,” Caba said. “ You get the ball the most out of anyone you get to run more than anyone.”

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