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Originally published Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 06:00a.m.

KINGMAN – Marco Castaneda and Gabriel Otero had a common goal – make the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program’s 15U Nevada team. The pair of Lee Williams High School freshmen spent many hours training and it all paid off as they recently made the cut.

“I’ve been trying hard and working to make it,” Castaneda said. “I went to Arizona last year and I didn’t make it. To not make it was really devastating for me. So I was training a lot.”

Otero is also on Nevada’s 18-man starting roster, but this isn’t the first time he’s made an OPD squad after being on Arizona’s squad last year.

“It’s exciting,” Otero said. “It’s my second time making it. The first time I was on more of the ‘B’ squad, but this time I’m on the starting team.”

The duo gets their first opportunity to play on Dec. 9 for scrimmages against Utah in Mesquite, Nevada. The contests will prepare them for the 2018 U.S. Youth Soccer Region IV ODP Championships Jan. 5-8 in Phoenix.

In the meantime, Castaneda and Otero are practicing as members of the Lee Williams boys soccer team.

“I think playing high school soccer makes it easier because I’m playing against bigger, stronger players,” Otero said. “Then I go back to OPD and only play people my size, my strength, my age and stuff like that.”

However, playing at the high school level doesn’t quite prepare the duo for a rigorous four-day tournament. But they aren’t worried about that.

“It will be very tiring, but you just have to pull through it,” Castaneda said.