Los Lunas High School boys soccer coach Eric Chavez has been named as the New Mexico Coach of the year by the United Soccer Coaches Association.
Chavez said he is humbled to win the award and the first time he has ever been honored with something like this which is very exciting for him.
It is also impactful for him to be honored by an organization that that does so much work to advance soccer at every level of the game, from youth up through college.
In order to win, a coach must have had a successful season as well as demonstrate a knowledge of the game, have the respect of their players, be involved in the game beyond just coaching as well as have a team that conducts itself positively on the field.
Next, Chavez is up for the regional coach of the year award. If he wins that, he will accept it at the national conference in Baltimore in January.
Chavez, who just completed his second season in charge of the program, led the Tigers to their first state championship since 1983 and a record of 19-3-1. It was the Tigers second straight berth in the semi-finals or later in the state tournament.
This is the latest in a long line of awards given to the team, as seven of its players were previously named to the All-State teams.
In his first year on the job, the Tigers finished with a 14-8 record, the best since a 14-6-1 finish in 2014.
The 2019 team enjoyed a stint ranked as the best team in the state by MaxPreps early in the season and started 9-0 before being handed their first loss of the year.
LLHS was unable to win the district crown, as the team’s other two losses game to St. Pius X. In the playoffs, they defeated Chaparral 3-0 in the second round and came from behind to beat the No. 1 seed Albuquerque Academy 2-1 to reach the final.
In the championship game, Bryan Tarango played the role of the hero and scored both of the Tigers’ goals in a 2-1 win over the Los Alamos Hilltoppers, the team that beat them in the semifinals the year before.
“Winning a State Championship is definitely all its cracked up to be,” Chavez said. “Its extremely surreal and hits you harder with each day that passes. It doesn’t go away. All of this recognition coming through is wonderful.”
LLHS claimed the championship despite being down to 10 men for a large portion of the second half.
In addition to leading the boy’s soccer program, Chavez is a teacher at Los Lunas Middle School.
“We are planning on being in the Christmas parade this weekend in Los Lunas,” Chavez said.
”Its such an incredible feeling to be able to provide such a powerful experience to these young men. I want them to remember it for the rest of their lives.”