SANTA FE, N.M. — Although basketball is the premier sport in Northern New Mexico, the Capital High School boys soccer team is one of the elite programs, not just in the north but in the entire state.
So new coach Luis De La Cruz knows he has some mighty big boots to fill.
“The previous coach did an amazing job,” De La Cruz said of Eugene Doyle, who resigned after 11 seasons, one state championship and numerous state tournament appearances.
“They’re always in the state playoffs, so being able to maintain that level and hopefully be able to achieve new heights is my goal. I want to be able to maintain and continue the tradition, and eventually make it even stronger.”
In his first coaching gig, De La Cruz was with Jaguars girls team last season, helping the team to become more competitive.
“It was a different challenge,” he said of working with the girls. “With the girls, it was just building a program from scratch. It’s been many years and they’ve never had a winning season. With the guys, it’s a whole different challenge that I was excited to take on. I’m still going to be working with the girls. I’ll be assisting them as much as I can.”
De La Cruz, who works in the Santa Fe Public Schools Human Resources Department, played his youth soccer in El Paso and was a member of several New Mexico Olympic Development Program squads.
He was chosen to take over the boys’ team from a large pool of applicants, said Capital athletic director Larry Chavez.
“There was a number of applicants out there and quality applicants,” he said. “That was great to see that it generated some interest.”
De La Cruz’s familiarity with the program and his success with the girls was a big factor in the hiring decision, Chavez said.
“He comes with a wealth of experience at multiple levels,” he said. “We’ve started to see change in the attitude and culture with the girls, so we thought he was a great fit for the boys program.”
De La Cruz played his college ball at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas.
Most of the coaches in El Paso were teachers at their schools. So in Santa Fe, De La Cruz hadn’t given high school coaching much thought until given the opportunity last season with girls.
He’s taking over a boys Jaguars team that went 12-8-1 and was seeded eighth going into the state tournament before losing its opening game on the road to Valencia 1-0.
De La Cruz has not had a chance yet to meet with the team, which had five seniors last year. He did watch the boys in action quite often as the boys and girls frequently played district games back to back at the same location.
The Jaguars’ style won’t change too much, he said, because he’s liked what he has seen.
“As a player, I was a very offensive player, but as a coach now it’s different,” De La Cruz said. “… If you don’t have a balanced team, it doesn’t matter how many goals you score.
“So we’re going to concentrate on defense, which is what I saw. And we’re going to get numbers in the midfield. If you control the midfield, you’re able to control the game.”