Van Horn junior Angel DeAvila has been one of the premier boys soccer players not only in the Kansas City area, but in the state.
He just needed a chance to prove it to high school soccer fans and college scouts.
DeAvila got that chance this season when he led the Falcons to their first-ever state final four appearance. He got to play on Missouri’s biggest stage in high school soccer – the World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo.
After losing to Fort Zumwalt South in the semifinals, Van Horn tied for third place with Springfield Glendale following a 0-0 score in the third-place game.
DeAvila was on a Van Horn team loaded with talent like Edison Rios, Julio Rios and Raynalso Jean-Pierre – all of whom were named to the Class 3 all-state squad. But the team may not have had the breakout season without DeAvila, the leader and the engine that powered a well-oiled Van Horn machine.
He took his first step in preparing himself to play in college by showcasing his talents at state. DeAvila had a tremendous season, scoring 26 goals and dishing 24 assists, leading to a first-team, all-state selection. Because of his spectacular season, DeAvila is the 2018 Examiner Boys Soccer Player of the Year, earning the honor for a second year in a row.
“Toward the beginning of the season, I didn’t feel like I was doing enough,” DeAvila said. “But then I knew the players had my back. They pushed me to become a player. As time passed, (his play) improved. I got better throughout the season.”
This year was the second time DeAvila made the all-state team. He was also named the Kansas City Region Class 3 Player of the Year.
He’s an all-around player who can score and can pass and defend well. Even after having two tremendous seasons, DeAvila hasn’t garnered a lot interest from college coaches. He said Creighton University expressed a little bit of interest and Graceland University is interested in potentially signing him next year. But at 5-foot-5, the junior doesn’t have the typical size that college scouts tend to look for. But if you ask Van Horn head boys soccer coach Jesus Rodriguez, DeAvila is a NCAA Division I level talent.
“We needed the exposure that we got this year,” Rodriguez said. “This year, he finally got first-team all-state. I think last year he got robbed (he was second team in 2017). I think he could be our first Division I player.
“He may not have the height, but he’s gotten stronger, and that compensates for that. Against Harrisonville, a kid who was 6-2, 6-3 tried to body Angel off the ball, and the kid ended up on the ground.”
If DeAvila’s 2018 season was any indictication, Rodriguez may be on to something. This year, DeAvila wanted to prove to college coaches that he has what it takes to play at the next level.
“This was the year to show off for college coaches,” he said. “I haven’t heard from any other colleges besides Graceland and Creighton.”
Rodriguez said he plans on helping DeAvila put together a highlight video to send to potential college suitors.
“We have to put some things on tape – not just goals, but tackles, passing and his vision on the field,” Rodriguez said. “We have to put a complete tape together.”
Rodriguez added that DeAvila has all the physical skills and the mental state to compete at the next level.
“As soon as he gets out of here, he’s ready to go,” Rodriguez said. “They don’t have to teach him much outside of their system. He’s a great player. He knows that.”
And soon college coaches will know that, too, Rodriguez said.
“The college offers are going to come in. I know that for a fact,” he said. “He’s got a good (grade point average) and he takes a lot of honors classes. We just need to expose him more, so he can get more offers.”
And working on a few other things will help, too.
“He’s gotten stronger, faster and his technical ability has gotten better,” Rodriguez said. “He still needs to work on his (left-footed shot). He needs to work on go-to moves besides the push and run. And we need to work on changing directions and agility.”
Added DeAvila: “Today in the weight room, our weight coach (Jay Kolster) actually lifted with me. We deadlift together. I never lifted three plates on each side and he put them on there like that and said, ‘Do it.’ So I did it and surprised myself.”
And with DeAvila’s work ethic, improving some of the things he needs to work on are likely to come with time. There has been times when most of the players left practice, but DeAvila stayed, working on his game, no matter what the weather is like.
“That says a lot,” Rodriguez said. “I worked by myself after practice when I was a player, and so does Angel. That’s a good thing that he has.”
Added DeAvila: “There was a time when it was cold and it was raining and coach canceled practice. All of the guys were there and were sitting in the rain and we persuaded him to let us practice. When the guys had gone and left, I just felt like practicing. I didn’t want to leave.
“One of our seniors Brian Parra stayed, too. And we worked on one-on-ones. I ended up making a shot that I made in a game later in the season.
That work ethic could be what helps DeAvila land with a Division I college.
“As a kid, I always wanted to play professionally,” DeAvila said. "College honestly wasn’t on my mind. When I got to high school, that’s when I found out more about college soccer and scholarships.
“Then I got to go out to Creighton and see their campus and their program that they have (last spring). That was pretty cool. Right now, that’s a school I would want to go to.”