New coach brings native flair to women’s soccer team

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Jason Howell

Jason Howell | The Daily Eastern News

Dominic Renzetti, Assistant Sports Editor

When Tony Castelon, an assistant coach on the Eastern women’s soccer team last season, received an opportunity to work and teach in Guatemala, head coach Jason Cherry knew he would soon need to find a replacement

Castelon, who previously coached with Cherry at Western Illinois, set off at the end of last year to work for the United States Sports Academy teaching English and sports to children in Guatemala. That is when Cherry contacted an old player from his days at Bethel College, a small Christian school in Mishawaka, Ind., only a few minutes from the campus of Notre Dame.

That player was Raymundo Gonzalez. Cherry got to coach Gonzalez for two years during his stint at Bethel from 2005 to 2008. Gonzalez then became an assistant at Bethel from 2007 to 2012.

Gonzalez, from Aguascalientes, Mexico, came to Bethel when his brother, a Mexican professional soccer player for 15 years, was contacted by former teammate Pablo Rodriguez, then a coach at Bethel. Gonzalez had already been playing soccer in Mexico, but decided he would rather attend school. That is when Gonzalez got the call to come play at Bethel.

Leaving Mexico was a tough decision for Gonzalez, as he already had a comfortable life. He put his faith in God and trusted that coming to Bethel would be the right decision.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to come here because I didn’t speak English, I just knew the basics,” he said.

Before leaving for the United States, Gonzalez played for Mexico’s under 20 and under 23 national team, as well as working as an assistant at the Mandyn Soccer School and the Aguascalientes Team in Aguascalientes.

After playing and then coaching at Bethel, Gonzalez coached children’s teams in Texas, including the F.C. Dallas U10-11 team. He most recently served as a volunteer coach at North Dallas High School.

Back in Charleston, the Eastern women’s team had just come off a first-round loss to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. With Castelon soon to be off to South America, Cherry began to search for a new assistant.

“I was going through who do I trust, who do I know that’s good,” Cherry said. “That’s when I thought of Raymundo.”

On board with Cherry’s vision for the program, Gonzalez decided to move from Dallas to Charleston. So far he said he likes it here.

“It’s a big change,” he said. “I like the quiet place, I like the environment of the small city. Also, my wife’s family is from three hours away, so that gives us an opportunity to go and visit more often.”

Another big change for Gonzalez was coaching women, as he had spent most of his career with men.

“It’s a huge difference,” he said. “The guys you can be more direct and more in their faces … the girls, I think I’ve learned you have to talk to them in a different way than you do guys.

Meagan Radloff, a senior on the Eastern women’s soccer team, said the rest of the team has responded well to Gonzalez and his style of coaching.

“He helps out a lot,” she said. “Everyone likes him, he’s a great way to be around. He really tries to incorporate some good things into practice and he kind of brings something to our team that we haven’t had before.”

That something, Cherry said, is his unique brand of Latin American soccer.

“Raymundo is very good at building relationships. Being able to coach him and have him coach with me … he knows me and he knows my expectations,” Cherry said before the team’s first match.  “I think some of the things that he can bring to the table, the technical part is a lot smoother, and the Latino flair that they play with that I just don’t have. I think we’re going to really benefit from him.”

Unfortunately, that brand of Latino soccer doesn’t always translate to English, something Gonzalez has been working on.

“Sometimes my brain still thinks in Spanish,” he said. “So, when I say something, they’re looking at me like, ‘what do you mean?’ But they’re adjusting. Some things I have to explain two or three different times because there’s a language barrier.”

Gonzalez enters his fifth game on the Panthers’ sidelines at 3 p.m. Friday when Eastern takes on Missouri-Kansas City.

 

Dominic Renzetti (@DomRenzetti) can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]