Oftentimes, picking the Player of the Year is an arduous and thankless task.

But in some years, one player stands head-and-shoulders above the rest.

That was GNB Voc-Tech senior Michael Garcia in 2018; just ask some of the coaches who faced him.

“He’s a tremendous talent,” said Apponequet’s Trevor Gagnier. “He improved in all areas. I thought he shared the ball very well. He made a ton of players around him better. The game slowed down for him. He had a great career.”

“I thought this year he changed his game a little bit to be a facilitator,” said Old Rochester’s Mike Devoll. “He wasn’t always just hanging out up top. The second time we played them he played underneath a little bit. He had a complete season this year.”

“Michael is a very intelligent soccer player,” said Dartmouth’s Josh Silva. “He doesn’t try to force things. He let the game play out. The one thing I could really appreciate is his competitiveness. He’s just a competitor. He can torch you in many ways, whether it’s his free kick or putting himself in a great scoring opportunity. He’s just a great player.”

Garcia, who earned his second-straight Standard-Times Player of the Year honors, finished with an area-best 32 goals and 17 assists this season, helping GNB Voc-Tech win its first South Coast Conference title since 2015 and reaching the quarterfinals of the Div. 2 South tournament. Amazingly, he did that despite facing smothering defenses that often double-teamed him, even when the ball was on the other side of the field.

“It’s hard to score goals when there’s someone on you at all times,” Garcia said. “I remember the first time, the Apponequet game, one of the first games of the year, they had two kids shadow me the whole game. Coach told me I had to get used to it.”

“He was pretty well-marked every time we played,” said Bears coach Henry Andrade, who has coached three of the last four Boys Soccer Player of the Year (Joe Morehead in 2015). “He always had one guy or two guys on top of him and he still found ways to score. That’s the type of player he is. Those players only come around once in awhile.”

As a four-year varsity player and three-time captain, Garcia saw the highs and lows of the Bears program, including a 5-11-2 record his sophomore year. His goal as a senior was to win a South Coast Conference championship, something he had done as a freshman. In order to do that while surrounded by a fairly young team, he knew he had to step up his leadership.

“As a senior captain, I wanted to step in and be a better leader and better role model,” he said. “We had a lot of young kids this year. When I was a freshman, I looked up to the seniors, like Joe Morehead. I wanted to take them under my wing and show them what it takes.”

“He’s a friendly kid, a good guy,” said Andrade. “He’s a good teammate. His ability to be a good player didn’t go to his head. He’s very down to Earth.”