The Christopher High boys soccer team is projected to have one of its best seasons in program history, and it’s probably not a coincidence that Paul Song happens to play a key role on the squad. After all, when one looks at Song’s impressive resume off the field—cello player, club president, ranks first in the class of 2019, accepted to Harvard and Cal Berkeley, with more prestigious school acceptance notifications perhaps to follow—it’s apparent that Song succeeds at whatever he puts his mind to.
Including soccer. The Cougars are experiencing a rebirth this season, entering the week at 4-3-5 overall and 1-1-2 in the Pacific Coast League’s Mission Division. While Christopher’s win-loss record is not spectacular, the team has already surpassed its victory total from last season.
“I’d say this year is really promising,” said Song, a senior striker who is second on the team in goals behind Fabbrizzio Bitencourt. “We have a lot of really good players and some good midfielders who really help the team build plays. Even though we have a lot of new players, I still think we have good team chemistry. We’ve all become friends very quickly.”
The Cougars have been boosted by the play of newcomers Bitencourt and Tomas Lobo d’Avila, who is a foreign-exchange student from Portugal and only here for one year. Bitencourt, who is from Brazil, plays striker and has had several multiple goal-scoring games.
“Whether you’re a striker or center midfielder, you have to know the players around you, and these guys are getting the job done incorporating everyone on the team,” Cougars coach Ryan Brown said. “It’s possible Fabbrizzio could return next year—that’s what we’re hoping for. They’ve been fun and exciting to have on the team.”
The influx of talent also came in the form of junior midfielders Zach Beardsley and Damian Jaimes, who are in the gap year of playing for their Developmental Academy teams.
“They’re a really great pair and have made a really great impact to the team,” Brown said.
Adalberto Arellano, a senior center back, has been such a consistent presence on the backline that Brown refers to him as “our gatekeeper.” Arellano organizes the defense and has had an opportunity to learn from the previous standout center backs who have played in the program in the last few seasons.
“Adalberto has stepped up to be the guy this year, which is pretty cool,” Brown said. “He’s been one of the better ones we’ve had in the last several years.”
Donavyn Pinheiro, a junior striker, has proven to be a goal-scoring threat and potent on the attack. It just so happens his family name is rooted in the city’s history. Pinheiro’s dad, David, who is an assistant coach on the team, happens to be the son of former Gilroy Mayor Al Pinheiro.
“David speaks Portuguese, which is great because Fabbrizzio and Tomas speak the language,” Brown said.
Junior Enzo Martin has also made a sizable impact with his ability to play different positions. Brown said Martin has deceptive speed, to the point where he catches opposing players off guard and takes the ball away from them.
“It’s happened several times this season where he’ll do that and then proceed to put a beautiful shot on goal,” Brown said. “And I think all of his goals have come from 30 yards out, which makes it that much more impressive.”
After losing their projected starting goalkeeper early in the season, Brown brought up freshman Ricardo Bustamante from the junior varsity team. Usually if a team is relying on a freshman to be its goalkeeper, it’s in for a long season. However, Bustamante has caught on quickly and utilized his talent to be a difference maker.
“He’s done a great job given how young he is,” Brown said. “Thankfully, I was a goalkeeper in college, and I feel like I can connect to our keepers being that it is a specialized position. We also have some alumni who have been really good goalkeepers, and they have a tendency to hang around practice once in a while. This makes it fun and provides a great culture for keepers instead of them feeling like the guys who have to go off to the side and do their own drills.”
The roster also includes Abram Huerta Diaz, Caden Booth, Cameron Solomon, Eduardo “Lalo” Martinez, Ezequiel Montanez, Giovanni Camacho, Ismael Uriza, Jacob Young, Javier Margarito, Joshua Quintos, and Oscar Canales.
Like Martin, Song can play just about anywhere. In addition to striker, Song has made an impact as a center back during his Christopher career.
“Paul works really, really hard, and wherever I put him, he gets results,” Brown said. “One of his strengths is he’s got tremendous speed, and he knows how to use it.”
Song, who sings in the school’s Chamber Choir, is always mindful to be vocal on the field, knowing strong communication plays a key role in a team’s success.
“I’m pretty verbal on the field, so I’m communicating who should be marking who, if we’re shifting or if we should push up together,” he said.
When asked what has been his personal individual highlight, Song said scoring a goal against Monterey earlier this season has stood out above the rest. Stationed 20 to 25 yards out, Song buried a shot to the top corner with laser-like precision. There is a lot of optimism revolving around the Christopher High program, given the fact that there are several talented underclassmen on the squad.
“We have a lot of great young players like Zack, Enzo and Damian, and I think the team next year is going to be really strong,” Song said. “This season is going great, and there is a feeling it’s only going to get better from here.”
This is Song’s second season on the varsity squad, and he also played varsity volleyball last spring. Song started playing soccer at age 4 or 5, and sports have taught him a lot of valuable life skills.
“Through sports, I’ve learned a lot of time management,” he said. “It’s also kept me physically fit, in shape and helped me release stress and maintain my mental health throughout high school. It’s definitely taught me discipline and how to deal with failure.”
That’s a humble response given that Song has a litany of accomplishments that speaks to his talent, work ethic and determination. In addition to being in the school’s choir, Song plays cello for the South Valley Youth Orchestra and San Jose Youth Symphony. He’s the president of the California Scholarship Federation chapter at Christopher, and is also the president of the Gilroy Youth Commission, which makes recommendations to the city council on issues affecting local youth.
Song is also involved in speech and debate and the school’s engineering club, in part because he will probably major in engineering in college. Now, about his college choices. As previously mentioned, Song has already been accepted to Harvard and Cal Berkeley, but he’s still waiting to hear back from Stanford, Princeton and Yale.
“I’m on pins and needles,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s pretty relaxing knowing I got into Harvard and Berkeley.”
Should Song get accepted by all of the colleges he applied to, he would make sure to visit all of the campuses before making a decision. If Song decides to attend Harvard, there is a virtual guarantee he won’t get homesick, at least not initially. That’s because Song’s brother, T.J., is a student there and will be graduating after the 2020 fall semester. When T.J. decided to go to Harvard four years ago, it put immediate pressure on Paul to achieve at a high level.
“There was definitely a lot of pressure,” Paul said. “Right when my brother got into Harvard, I kind of thought, ‘Oh, maybe I can get into Harvard or another Ivy League school.'”
Currently ranked No. 1 in the class of 2020 with a 4.64 GPA, Song took five Advanced Placement classes last year and is taking four this school year. He’s already taken a couple of college classes—both online and in person—at Gavilan College and Stanford University. Even though Song is in the final semester of his senior year, he doesn’t have the luxury of basking in senioritis.
“I think I’m definitely getting hit with a mild case of senioritis,” he said. “But I still have responsibilities I need to carry out, which keeps me motivated to finish strong.”
Speaking of motivation, Song said his comes from seeing how hard his parents worked to provide for his physical needs. However, he also appreciates how much time they invested in him to teach him on how to carry himself.
“They helped make me into who I am,” Song said. “They gave me all my core values, and working hard is the best way I can respect their effort in raising me. I feel like I have an obligation to do my best and want them to see the fruit of their labor through me. … My parents didn’t put too much pressure on me (to get good grades); it was more of like they leaned me in the right direction. They emphasized the importance of education when I was young, and as time passed, I began realizing how important it was and really valuing it myself. How education is kind of the main gateway into the future in which I can really make an impact on the world.”
For a future career, Song is thinking along the lines of mechanical or nuclear engineering. He also could go into a field that involves applied mathematics, an area in which he is particularly strong in.