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Soccer player Arana in play after mend
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Genaro Arana juggles a soccer ball near the sidelines while his teammates scrimmage at a recent practice at Walter White School in Ceres. The Ceres High senior can't participate because he has a sore hamstring.

Arana returned to the starting lineup against Modesto High on Sept. 10.

"He's come back more determined everytime he has had to sit out for a while," said Ceres High boys varsity soccer coach Joe Byrne.

Arana was relegated to the bench with injuries during the 2003-2004 school year.

"Last year was the worse year ever," he said.

Arana missed 11 of 18 league games and the postseason after breaking his right foot at practice. He watched his team lose in overtime to St. Mary's in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Playoffs. The Bulldogs hadn't been to the playoffs in seven years.

When Arana was healthy, Ceres compiled a 7-2 record. The Bulldogs went 6-4-1 without him.

"He would have really helped us out," Byrne said.

"He was a key factor early in the year in keeping our defense tight in the back."

Arana attended just about every game and practice after suffering the season-ending injury.

"He came to all of the games and supported the team," Byrne said.

Said Arana: "I would come to every practice. I had my cast and I would try to juggle and shoot anyway. Joe would get mad at me."

Arana also missed part of his club team's season.

"It was devastating," he said.

In April, he was rushed to Doctors Medical Center in an ambulance after getting beaten senseless by four men as his older brother and friends purchased food from a taco truck on the corner of Crows Landing and Hatch roads on a Saturday night.

Arana was hospitalized for three days with a concussion and fractured nose. He spent two days in intensive care.

"I had blood going to my brain and they (doctors) stopped that with medication," he said.

Arana didn't provoke his attackers.

"They wanted to fight for no reason," he said. "I didn't even look at them.

"I'm not a gangster."

Arana made a triumph return and played for the under-17 Ripon Rush in the quarterfinals of the California Youth Soccer Association State Cup at Morgan Hill. He scored twice.

"I was supposed to wait two months," Arana said. "I waited a week and went back out."

Arana played defensive midfielder at Ceres High for the past two years. He was moved to offensive midfielder at an exhibition tournament.

The change in positions paid off.

Arana had five goals and seven assists during the preseason.

"He's surpassed his high-school totals in one year in the preseason," Byrne said.

Added Arana: "I like the position because I get to move up and down the field more."

Arana also enjoys being a team captain.

"It's an honor and privilege," he said.

Added Byrne: "Anytime there's something needed to be done, he's always at the head of the pack. I wanted to reward him."

Arana has improved each year. He earned honorable-mention honors as a sophomore and junior.

"His skills on the ball, both offensively and defensively, are among the best on the team," Byrne said. "He's definitely one of the top players in the league this year."

Arana started playing soccer year-round eight years ago. He played for the Modesto Ajax for 21/2 years, from age 14-16.

In August, Arana led the Quakes to a league championship at the Modesto Indoor Soccer warehouse. He had two goals and three assists in the title game, which his team won 7-4.

In January, Arana will suit up for the Ceres Earthquakes 18-and-under competitive soccer team.

Arana wants to continue to play soccer after high school. First at Modesto Junior College. And then at San Diego State or Fresno State.

"I'm focusing on school and soccer," Arana said. "I'm trying to get a scholarship." - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier