Ian Murray will inevitably take a stroll through Washington Square Park this fall and let his mind wander.

Ian Murray will inevitably take a stroll through Washington Square Park this fall and let his mind wander.

He may think about breathtaking and historic San Sebastian and voyages he and his family made each winter.

He'll look back at his memories in Jackson County, where he grew up.

And then the Ashland senior soccer player — who is set to attend New York University — will keep on walking, letting his memorable past guide him toward the places that will take hold of his imagination.

Murray has traveled to Spain nearly 20 times, immersing himself in the culture and beauty of Europe and opening his mind and heart to the country where his mother Ana and her family grew up. The trips, and Murray's multicultural family, helped inspire him to learn the Spanish language, develop a world view and explore the possibility of studying international relations at NYU.

His New York dream becomes a reality this autumn in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan. The valedictorian will get the chance to turn another reverie into certainty this weekend when the 18-year-old Murray chases down his first Rogue Valley Cup title. He and the U19 Rogue Valley Soccer Club Fuego, a collection of local all-stars, have been training and competing together since November.

Inquisitive and thoughtful, Murray sought out soccer like he did Spanish, captivated by the sport his older brothers Alex and Kirk latched onto as children. Murray has played since he could stand up and began participating in the Cup when he was 12.

"Ian is one of those kids who make you happy to coach," says Fuego head coach and RVSC director of coaching Kevin Primerano.

Though Murray took up tennis recently, his athletic devotion has never wavered. He has discovered that life's gold is mined in places where the heart beats fastest. For him, that place is the pitch.

"Soccer is my number one priority," he says.

Provided with competitive opportunities, Murray has grown into an elite center midfielder, one who will receive an opportunity to walk on with the NYU Bobcats, an NCAA Division III program that does not offer athletically related financial aid to student-athletes.

Before his college experience begins, Murray has a date with the Cup, where he finds himself an accomplished character in a cast of local standouts.

"This is what club soccer is supposed to be," Primerano says. "Getting players from all over Southern Oregon to play together."

This fall, Murray was selected to the Class 5A soccer first-team all-state team, playing a pivotal role in guiding the Grizzlies to an 11-4 record and an appearance in the state playoffs. He recorded 10 goals and nine assists for Ashland.

When winter rolled around, he and his family migrated to Basque Country, an annual tradition. The vacations offer life-changing views of beauty, like San Sebastian's stunning coastline, the utopian Mount Ulia and the arresting Mount Adarra.

Murray, who has maintained a 4.0 grade point average, also works part-time at Tree House Books in Ashland and he played tennis for the Grizzlies this spring. He and his doubles partner Carl Gorbett advanced to the 5A state quarterfinals at Portland Tennis Center last Friday.

And somewhere amid the whirlwind of his life, Murray hurries back to the soccer field, where he is one of several experienced Fuego playmakers.

Prior to joining the elite U19 club, Murray participated with a U17 squad based in Ashland. But all that changed — and Fuego's already strong core strengthened — when a large contingent of Grizzlies joined. Fuego now has eight Ashland players, along with five from North Medford, three from South Medford, two from Grants Pass and representatives from Phoenix, St. Mary's and Hidden Valley.

"Kevin (Primerano) approached us here in Ashland trying to make a team to showcase the best talent," Murray says.

Fans should enjoy the brand of play that Fuego offers, Murray adds.

"They will be treated to a good game of soccer the way it should be played," he says. "A good passing game, a good possession game. It is a pretty beautiful game when we play it."

One of several all-conference caliber players on the Fuego roster, North Medford senior Brandon Schoenmann has blossomed after moving from the center midfielder position to left fullback. He scored the first two goals during the club's 4-2 win over Pacific FC in the Oregon State Cup championship earlier this month.

The group has played in an Oregon Youth Soccer Association winter league and also competed in the Las Vegas Mayor's Cup in February, finishing second in a U18 bracket. They are 13-2-2 together.

"As a team the Mayor's Cup was our first really big challenge," Murray says. "We responded well to the magnitude of the tourney and the quality of the teams."

After participating in the Rogue Valley Cup, the team will next compete in the Region 4 championships — which will feature teams from 13 other states — in Boise in June. At stake will be a berth in July's national competition in Phoenix, Ariz.

Murray has not yet been to New York but, with an adventurer's spirit, is eager to begin the next chapter of his life there. He has earned several valuable academic scholarships and says the Bobcats' coaching staff has offered him the chance to perpetuate his playing career. NYU finished 11-3-4 last year.

"They are building up a team that has some older plays but they think I could fit in well," he says.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com