Vitals: Dinuba, senior, striker
Need to know: Earned his second straight Central Sequoia League MVP after scoring 44 goals with 16 assists while leading the Emperors to the Central Section Division III title and a berth in the CIF Southern California Regional. Finished four-year career with 104 goals.
Up next: Plans to play for Fresno City College next season.
Mario Diaz doesnt let a whole lot hold him back.
Not double- and triple-teams on the soccer field or the challenges of being in a new country without his parents.
The Bees Player of the Year moved from Mexico to Dinuba four years ago with his father, Samuel Sr., and older brother, Samuel Jr. His mother, Maria, and four sisters remained in Mexico.
Two years later, its just 19-year-old Mario and 23-year-old Samuel on their own after a falling out with their father, who relocated to Washington.
Those two years were the worst of my life, Diaz said of his contentious relationship with his father. So we moved on.
They live on the what Samuel earns as a manager of a packing house and whatever Mario saves up from working for the same packing house during the summer. Despite knowing very little English when he arrived in Dinuba, Diaz is on pace to graduate in June with a 3.0 grade-point-average and he plans to continue his education in college.
The impossible is nothing, said Diaz, a senior striker and the catalyst behind Dinubas march to the Central Section Division III championship.
After a junior year that saw Diaz score 28 goals, opposing teams knew all about the 2009 Central Sequoia League MVP, making him the focus of their defensive effort.
It was hard to score. They always put two, three guys on me, Diaz said. But it helped my team because they were free to move.
Diaz moved pretty well, too, scoring a school-record tying 44 goals and contributing 16 assists to win league MVP honors for a second straight season as the Emperors went 23-4, defeated then No. 25 nationally ranked Golden Valley 4-2 in a shootout for the D-III title and qualified to play in the CIF Southern California Regional for the first time, reaching the semifinals before falling to Santa Barbara 3-0.
Mario has been the heart of the team, Dinuba coach Francisco Etcheverria said of his four-year starter. He really has a passion for the sport. Thats his motivation. He wanted to improve in soccer because he knew that would help him get his education. He wants to succeed.
Etcheverria said Diaz, who scored 104 career goals for Dinuba, was able to take his game to higher level this season because, for the first time, he added weightlifting to his training.
He got a lot stronger, Etcheverria said. Thats why he scored a lot more goals this year. Everyone was marking him with two, three players and it was not stopping him.
Diaz plans to play for Fresno City College next season with the hope of eventually earning a scholarship to a four-year university.
My dream is to play professional, Diaz said. I think I can make it, but if something happens and I dont, at least Ill have an education.
And whatever Diaz accomplishes in life, he knows he has his brother to thank.
Thats what keeps me on track -- I know I have to do pretty good for my brother, Diaz said. Hes always there for me. I try to do my best this year in everything because of him. Thanks to him, Im still going to school and able to play.