By Ryan Maquiñana
Special to S.F. Examiner
The San Francisco Glens Soccer Club of USL League Two are proud to partner with the Examiner in featuring boys’ and girls’ high school soccer in The City.
With the Northern California Division V title on the line for Mission High School on March 2, during an emotional and turbulent three days, the pressure was mounting on the Bears. Well, for everyone except senior forward Julio Gonzalez Ponce, the 2019 San Francisco Examiner High School Boys’ Player of the Year.
“Julio is the type of player you don’t have to worry about as a teammate,” winger Eduin Alvarado said. “He just knows where to be up the field, especially at the most important part of the game.”
Gonzalez Ponce closed his high school career in style with his 43rd and 44th goals as Mission captured their first NorCal title in school history. But, you wouldn’t know it if you were listening for auditory cues.
“I think I can be a little quiet sometimes,” Gonzalez Ponce said. “I need to improve on that.”
Gonzalez Ponce is short on words but long on humility, a trait shared by his head coach, Jose Mendoza Jr.
“He can do it all, and he’s just so easy to coach,” Mendoza Jr. said. “Yes, he has natural talent, but he cares so much about his teammates that everyone benefits. I’m just so proud of him for everything he has to do both on and off the field for his family.”
Gonzalez Ponce emigrated from El Salvador two-and-a-half years ago as a sophomore, and the culture shock initially affected him.
“Everything was different,” Gonzalez Ponce said. “It’s hot back in El Salvador and cold over here. People speak Spanish over there and English over here. It was hard to adjust.”
In addition to the language barrier, he picked up two jobs as a busboy in the Mission District to help support his family in SanFrancisco and his relatives in El Salvador — namely one in particular.
“My Uncle Ernesto taught me everything I know about soccer,” he said. “I want to see how far I can go because he’s inspired me to do that. I hope I can play in college.”
Mendoza is one of Gonzalez Ponce’s biggest believers and thinks it would be a travesty if The City’s best prep player doesn’t find a place to play next season.
“We hope this recognition opens more eyes for Julio,” the coach said. “He deserves it and we’re doing our best to make it happen for him, but we’ll see.”
Though Gonzalez Ponce is elated about this latest accolade, it comes at a bittersweet time, as teammate Aaron Villareal remains in the hospital after a car crash that killed three of his siblings and left him the lone survivor.
“Everything we did was for Aaron,” said Gonzalez. “We were just so motivated to win the title for him and to give him his winner’s medal in the hospital.”
When the Bears won the NorCal title, Gonzalez Ponce joined the team in visiting Villareal in the hospital last Monday in an emotional scene.
“It’s never about himself,” Mendoza said. “Julio’s always about helping others and that’s why he’ll be successful in whatever he does.”
READER’S CHOICE: Eli Streicker-Hirt, Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Though Gonzalez Ponce secured only 2 percent of the online vote, he comfortably led the coaches’ and media vote, which accounted for two-thirds of the final total.
However, Eli Streicker-Hirt led the online vote with 28 percent. As a senior center back, Streicker-Hirt was the defensive anchor for an unlikely Sacred Heart Cathedral squad that marched all the way to the Northern California Division III final.
“From the first game all the way to the NorCal state final, Eli was a rock in the back and literally played nearly every minute of every game,” first-year coach Mike McNeill said.
NEXT WEEK: SF High School Girls’ Player of the Year.
The San Francisco Glens’ USL League Two home opener is May 17 at Boxer Stadium and will feature new amenities like the Carlsberg Beer Garden and Fan Zone, as well as new pre-game and in-game entertainment. Learn more about the 2019 schedule, ticket information, and more at SFGlens.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram@SFGlensSC.