Since the moment he took over as the Parkdale High School boys' soccer coach in 2005, Dalitso Chinkhota has consistently preached to his teams that there’s no reason that Parkdale shouldn’t perennially be one of the top teams in the area.
“I’ve always told my teams that Parkdale should be a powerhouse when it comes to soccer,” Chinkhota said. “With the quality of players we have, it’s now just a matter of us executing to make that come [to fruition].”
And while the Panthers struggled early on during Chinkhota’s tenure, they’ve progressively improved each year and now appear to be on the verge of doing just that.
Parkdale finished 12-3 last season and fell just one game short of claiming the first regional championship in school history. The Panthers lost to High Point, 2-1, in last year’s Class 4A South title game.
“We still talk about that loss everyday,” Parkdale senior defender Brandon McKoy said. “That loss has been in our minds ever since the game ended and we couldn’t wait for this season to come.”
McKoy added, “It made us really hungry for this year though, and I can’t even tell you how hungry we are [to win the regional championship] this season.”
And although Parkdale will have to replace several starters from last season’s team, Chinkhota believes this year’s Panthers “definitely have what it to takes” to win the Class 4A South region.
Including McKoy, who Chinkhota describes as “the heart and soul” of Parkdale’s team, the head coach will also be depending on large contributions from forward Daniel Rojas, midfielders Carlos Calix, Rodrigo Hernandez and Foday Kamara as well as defenders Alex Manzanares and Jason Manzanares.
“This team’s very balanced,” Chinkhota said. “I think we have a good all-around team this year.”
McKoy offered a similar sentiment.
“The team looks pretty good,” McKoy said. “With us falling short last season, everyone’s really dedicated to us taking it all this year.”
Chinkhota says it won’t be easy to replace last year’s senior class, though, which included forward Alambi Clarke, goalie Eli Deogracias, midfielders Awet Gebremedhin and Jonathan Sawah and defender Angel Sosa.
“We’re going to have to fill those gaps,” Chinkhota said.
But with the pieces he has coming back, as well as several talented newcomers, Chinkhota is optimistic the Panthers have all the necessary pieces to once again challenge for the program’s first regional championship.
“Even without those guys, I think we definitely have what it takes,” Chinkhota said. “We still need a little bit of fine-tuning, but we definitely have what it takes.”
He added, “Our goal this year is to get to back to where we were last year, but to get even further than we did last year, and I think we’re more than capable of doing that.”
McKoy agreed, saying the Panthers’ only goal for this season is winning a championship.
Parkdale began it's season Thursday against Crossland.