In Italy, of all places, True Tamplin thought about the Newport Harbor High boys' soccer team in late August. He hadn't played for the team the past two seasons.
Maybe the program was on his mind because he was coming home soon. Maybe it was because he missed playing high school soccer.
"I struggled with it and it was eating away at my brain," said Tamplin, who decided not to eat at all one day while in Florence with his family. "I fasted. I asked God, 'Do your plan.' The next day, I got an email from Coach Juan Mares. He asked me if I was going to come out for the tryouts. That was the sign I needed. The first tryout was on Aug. 27. I was coming back home on Aug. 25. The timing of it all worked out perfectly."
Well, not so seamlessly. Tamplin was jet lagged. Nevertheless, he showed up to Harper Elementary and tried out as a senior.
He said he's glad he did. It turned out to be a memorable season for Tamplin, the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year in boys' soccer.
When he came out to try out, he recognized some of the 100 faces. The rest of them, he didn't know. They also didn't care who Tamplin was, or what he had been up to the previous two seasons in which he trained with clubs in Argentina and Brazil, and played with a U.S. Soccer Development Academy team.
Tamplin made the cut and his mark on the Sailors. Mares always figured Tamplin would. He just needed him to come back to the program.
And, what a return Tamplin made. He went on to produce an area-best 15 goals, four game-winning goals, to go with four assists.
Tamplin led the Sailors to their first CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoff appearance in Mares' three seasons in charge. And the Sailors weren't happy just making it after they shared third place in the Sunset League.
Tamplin lifted the Sailors to a 1-0 wild-card win at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, their first postseason victory since the 2008-09 season.
They almost weren't done in the playoffs. Tamplin scored and gave Newport Harbor a 1-0 lead at third-seeded El Toro. The Sailors had chances to jump on a team that had only lost once all season, but Tamplin said he missed an open goal and another shot clanked off the post.
The Sailors (13-9-4, 4-4-2 in league) were that close to pulling off an upset and continuing their season. They went on to lose, 2-1, but what wasn't lost was Tamplin's impact on the team.
"He brought a lot of professionalism and he showed the team how to train at a high level," Mares said of Tamplin, who plans to play at Golden West College next season. "He sacrificed a lot by not playing academy and his normal position as a midfielder to help the team. We couldn't score much until we moved him to forward.
"He was an all-around team player. Him coming back was a blessing."
Tamplin said the feeling is mutual.
The following is the rest of the Dream Team.
Corona del Mar
Senior striker stepped in and became the Sea Kings' scoring threat after last season's leading goal scorer, Conor Roche, dealt with a nagging hip-flexor injury throughout 2012-13 season. Nowak produced 14 goals and four assists. Nowak earned second-team All-Pacific Coast League laurels.
Senior defender kept the Eagles in matches with sound play in the back. Montillo played a big role in Estancia only giving up 20 goals in 23 matches. Montillo earned first-team All-Orange Coast League laurels. Montillo is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Corona del Mar
Senior defender anchored a defense that allowed just 10 goals in the Sea Kings' final 12 matches, which included 10 in Pacific Coast League play and two in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs. Case earned first-team All-Pacific Coast League laurels.
Sophomore midfielder provided the Sailors with a workmanlike attitude, propelling them to their first CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoff win since the 2008-09 season. Alcantara finished with six goals, two game-winning goals, and two assists. Alcantara earned second-team All Sunset League laurels.
Senior striker joined the Eagles late and went on a tear, recording 12 goals in the last 10 matches. Gomez earned a share of the All-Orange Coast League Offensive MVP award for the second straight season. Gomez is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Senior midfielder helped Costa Mesa claim the Battle for the Bell rivalry against Estancia for the second time in three seasons. Ramirez recorded the only goal in the two meetings between the two schools. Ramirez earned first-team All-Orange Coast League laurels.
Chris Von Der Ahe
Corona del Mar
Senior defender solidified the Sea Kings in the back, the team's strength. Von Der Ahe contributed to CdM holding seven opponents scoreless and six of those matches resulted in Sea King victories. Von Der Ahe earned first-team All-Pacific Coast League laurels.
Freshman midfielder made his presence felt by accounting for 25% of the Eagles' offense, scoring seven goals and assisting on two. Three of his goals came late in Orange Coast League play that clinched third place. Pizarro earned first-team All-Orange Coast League laurels.
Senior defender rallied the Sailors late as they closed out Sunset League play with a 2-0-1 record, good for the program's first CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoff berth in Coach Juan Mares' three seasons at the helm. Calderon-Orozco earned first-team All-Sunset League honors.
Senior goalkeeper posted a 1.37 goals against average and four shutouts. Porcayo made seven saves in a 1-0 shutout win at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame in the wild-card round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. Porcayo earned second-team All-Sunset League laurels.