Angel Camarillo’s high school varsity soccer career had started so promisingly last year when, as a sophomore, he started the first two games of the season for Riverhead.
And then, just like that, his season came to an unexpected, sudden end.
The right-footed Camarillo said he is not quite sure what happened, but believes he wrenched his right knee when his cleat got stuck in the ground during a game. At the time, he didn’t think much of it. He even played the remainder of that match.
It wasn’t until the following morning when Camarillo couldn’t walk that he realized something was wrong. Even then, though, he thought it was only a minor thing.
Medical personnel “had some theories of what it was, but they weren’t positive,” Camarillo said.
Then, an MRI gave them the answer: a torn meniscus.
“I was shocked because I didn’t think it was that serious,” Camarillo said. “I thought it was just like temporary pain … but no. It was worse than I expected.”
Camarillo underwent surgery in October and completed physical therapy in the early winter. “I came back a lot stronger than they expected,” he said.
This summer Camarillo was back on the field playing for Riverhead’s summer league team. “It was good to be back,” he said.
Riverhead coach Lamine Traore appreciates having the center back available to play again. Traore knows what the presence of a key player like Camarillo can mean to a team, “especially if you have your entire system built around that player.”
Camarillo, along with John Solorzano, is expected to be at the heart of a defense as part of either a classic 4-4-2 formation or a 4-2-3-1.
Traore called Camarillo “a natural leader. He really, really goes hard for the team.”
Sometimes too hard, too soon, maybe?
That was Traore’s fear when Camarillo joined the summer league team. Fearful that Camarillo would push himself too hard out of a desire to prove himself again, Traore told him to slow down.
“He didn’t want me to get hurt, but I feel I have a big responsibility since I’m a center back, like the last man,” Camarillo said. “I have to give it my all for my teammates, for the school, especially, representing Riverhead.”
Last year Riverhead went 1-13-1 and finished in last place in Suffolk County League III. That record may be a little misleading, though. The team lost over a half-dozen games by one goal. The Blue Waves, who will compete in League II this year, have never reached the playoffs.
Ironically, Camarillo said the injury he sustained made him a better player by instilling in him better work habits.
“When I was out, I honestly worked a lot harder than I did my last couple of years playing soccer,” he said. “I’m working harder now and I’m actually a better player than I was before.”
The lesson he took away from the experience is to play every game like it’s his last game.
What does Camarillo want to get out of this season individually?
“I really want to win an award for myself,” he said. “Just something that has my name on it. It would be nice.”
Photo caption: Riverhead center back Angel Camarillo, who missed all but two games last season because of a torn meniscus, taking part in an agility drill on Monday evening. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)