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Sweeper Arenas led Bears to Final Four

SUMMERVILLE BEAR TRAVIS ARENAS is the 2011 Union Democrat All-Area Most Valuable Player. Arenas played on the varsity for Summerville for three seasons. He was the unquestioned leader of the Bears' defense which gave up just 20 goals in 20 2011 games. MAGGIE BECK/UNION DEMOCRAT
It was early in the 2011 season, after a hard-fought win, and eight-year Summerville head coach Dave Reel was about to address his team with some encouraging words.
    Reel looked up at his 6-foot-5 senior star sweeper Travis Arenas.
    “I will never, ever forget the look Travis had,” said Reel. “His face said it all: Exhaustion, determination and happiness. He was proud of what he and his teammates had accomplished. There were tears of joy running down his face. He’s got this huge smile. There’s blood running down his legs. He’s completely spent but he was so pumped up he kept yelling out encouragement to his teammates. He had great things to say about everyone. He knew he and his teammates had accomplished something — and he was determined that they’d keep it all going.”
    And did they ever.
    Behind the leadership and all-around sensational on-the-field efforts of Arenas, Summerville went 10-3-2 in Mother Lode League play, knocked off No. 1 seed and Trans Valley League-champion Riverbank, 2-0, in the playoffs and advanced to the Final Four of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Championships.
    The 2011 Summerville Bears gave up an astonishingly-low 20 goals in 20 games. To put that statistic in perspective, Bret Harte gave up 37 goals in 20 games during its 2010 MLL-championship season. The Frogs were again formidable in 2011 and gave up 53 goals in 22 games.
    This season, Sonora had one of its strongest teams in years and the Wildcats yielded 52 goals in 22 games — a very respectable figure.
    “Travis was the centerpiece of our defense and he would not let goals go by,” said Tanner Anderson, the Bears 2011 top offensive threat.
    “Defensively, Travis shot teams down,” said Bullfrogs head coach Doug Gilbert. “I never thought I’d ever see one guy completely shut down teams — but Travis became that guy.”
    And he’s our guy, too.
    For his overall outstanding play and superior leadership, Travis Arenas is the 2011 Union Democrat All-Area Most Valuable Player.
    “Great choice!” proclaimed Gilbert. “Beyond just playing excellent soccer, Travis made everyone else on his team play better.”
    “There is no doubt in my mind that Travis earned this award,” said Reel. “No matter which players we put around him on defense, Travis made sure everyone fell in line, that everything was in sync. The reason you couldn’t take that soccer ball from him is because he is calm, confident and he trained so hard to become technically sound.
    “He’d keep things simple. If there was a ball in the air, Travis would head that ball out of danger. When people were on the attack, he’d either just swipe it from you or delay you.”
      “This is a great honor to me and I’m ecstatic about it,” said Arenas. “It lets me know that all of the hard work I put in has paid off. When I think back to my sophomore year, I never would have thought I’d be honored like this as a senior.”
     When Arenas was a sophomore called up by Reel to play varsity, Summerville won just one of 18 contests.
    And if anyone back in 2009 would have told then-sophomore Travis Arenas that his senior season wouldn’t end until a Final Four contest involving Summerville had been played ...
    “I would have completely shrugged off what that person was saying,” said Arenas. “I could never have seen anything like this happening. If anyone would have told me, ‘In 2011, Summerville will be in the playoffs and make the Final Four,’ I’d have said back, ‘That would be a miracle.’
    “But what happened this season is that our team came together. Unity was the key to our success and each one of us was very coachable. We always gave 100 percent. Our team had a lot of heart.”
    “The heart of Summerville’s team this year was Travis Arenas,” said Sonora head coach Lloyd Longeway. “He was their glue and the unquestioned leader of their defense. He doesn’t back down from anybody. He won’t let you in spaces that you want to get to. He will not allow forwards into the dangerous areas. I definitely think he was the top player in our area this season. He deserves this honor.”
    Summerville’s second game of this season was a 2-0 home win over Sonora.
    “That was a big win for us,” said Reel. “Sonora has a ton of speed and skill and that win seemed to give our kids confidence.”
    In its first MLL contest, Summerville blanked eventual-league champion and host Linden.
    “From then on,” said Arenas, “we knew we had something special with this team.”
    Teammates Josh Gonsalez, Michael Piech, J.B. Mitchell, Brandon Reel and Anderson are 2011 First-Team All-Area honorees.   
    Gonsalez and Piech sometimes flanked Arenas as fullbacks. Gonsalez is physical and fearless, and Piech is a ball-thief with lightning speed. At forward, Mitchell and Reel were perpetually on the attack. And Anderson, at center-midfielder, with pinpoint bazooka blasts, was the team closer with 21 goals.
    “It’s great to have a team leader like Travis,” said Anderson, who also had 11 assists. “Travis would yell, but it would always be something positive.”
    During the 2011 regular season, Summerville twice defeated two-time defending MLL champ Bret Harte (and one contest ended in a tie).
    “We were so used to Bret Harte dominating us in the past that, this season, we decided to just treat them like any other team,” explained Arenas. “After awhile, we were aware that other teams were worrying about us.”
    “Travis was like a coach on the field,” said Gilbert. “He’d be telling his teammates what to do, but never screaming at them. He could lead because he had his teammates’ respect. We’d send Freddy Barboza (First-Team All-Area forward) downfield and Travis would be planning out the defense, and pointing out where everyone needed to be and then Travis, a lot of the times, would be the one to make the defensive stop. He’s so athletic, fast and strong. He’s so tall and still so coordinated.”
    “As the field general,” said Arenas, “I felt it was my job to make sure everyone attacking us was covered. Personally, my own rule was never, never back down from anyone.”
    “What makes a great leader? I think, in part, it’s when others want to be led by you,” said Coach Reel. “My wife (Mary) doesn’t comment too much about soccer but she told me this season, ‘I like how Travis is always talking out there and encouraging everybody.’ She was right. When the forwards made a good play, Travis would yell, ‘Nice pass!’ or ‘Great shot!’ and his approval meant so much to his teammates. The truth was that Travis also inspired me.”
    Regarding the Bears’ season-ending team banquet in November, Reel recalled, “Once I started talking about Travis, remembering his face after the games, I broke down in tears like a baby. Travis has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve ever coached.
    “Did he leave his mark at Summerville? You bet he did. He left a big impression on any fan or any teammate or any young kid who ever got to watch him play. What he did here will live on because, most definitely, I will never stop talking about Travis Arenas. I will continue to talk about the drive he had, his commitment, his energy, his selflessness, his leadership and what a great human being he is.”

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