West High’s soccer team starts the 2012 season as the two-time defending champion of the Tri-City Athletic League.
Wolf Pack coach Nate Perry said that even though most of the 2011 team graduated, this year’s team represents the ideal transition from one season to another.
“We lost a really strong group, but the kids who are coming back are strong enough to let us vie for another league championship,” Perry said. “It’s another good playoff-contending team.”
West was 15-3-1 last year, including a 9-0-1 record in TCAL and two postseason wins in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs before a 5-0 loss to Jesuit of Carmichael in the semifinals.
Among West’s league rivals, only second-place Tokay of Lodi was able to hold the Wolf Pack to a tie, 0-0, in the last game of the league season.
Senior sweeper Waseem Latifi, a member of the 2010 and 2011 TCAL championship teams, said the Wolf Pack has tough players in every position on the field.
“Our defense is still competitive and pretty strong,” he said. “We’ve got a couple sophomores stepping up playing the midfield and as forwards.”
He added that this year’s seniors are determined to build on last year’s accomplishments.
“The Jesuit game we lost last year, everyone was kind of nervous,” he said. “When we came back this year, everyone is confident we can beat them this year.”
Also back this year is all-TCAL forward Miguel Madruga, a senior, and all-TCAL midfielder Alex Valencia, a junior.
“Alex Valencia is going to be the heart of our center,” Perry said. “Scoring with Miguel (Madruga) and (senior) Shawn Frisbie should come to us pretty naturally, and Waseem, he’s a stud. It’s hard to get by him. He’s the heart of the defense.”
“We’re a team that can shut teams out and still score three or four,” Perry added.
Other returning players include seniors Dan Baretta, Christian Guzman, Noman Dadgar, Jason Reading, German Romero and junior Javier Rios.
The biggest challenge this year for the Millennium High soccer team is to match the accomplishments of past Falcons teams.
The Falcons have won four consecutive league championships and two consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII titles. Now, the majority of players from those teams has graduated, and the Falcons have a new coach and a mostly new roster for 2012.
The good news for coach Alex Gonzalez is that the Falcons still attract players who want to be on a championship team. Gonzalez had 33 players try out this summer and trimmed the team down to a 19-player roster.
“What’s really neat about this is we have an abundance of sophomores who are really working out,” Gonzalez said. “That’s going to be the heart of our team in the next couple of years. Needless to say, we have some talent with the juniors for this year. It’s going to be a challenge in comparison with what they’ve done in the past.”
Last year, the Falcons went 16-2-1 overall and 13-0-1 in the Central California Athletic Alliance, which also included four teams from the Mountain Valley League.
Six players graduated last year, but more than enough stepped up to take their place.
“I know it’s going to be kind of challenging, because some of the other schools have seniors who have stepped up, but I feel real confident with the group of kids we have now,” Gonzalez said.
Returning players who have been on both the 2010 and 2011 Division VII championship teams include seniors Danny Aguayo and Jake Hunter. Also back from last year’s team is senior Ricardo Loza, junior Daniel Gutierrez and sophomores Ramiro Cortez, Victor Rodriguez, Omar Castro, Elham Chopan and Alexis Pina. Joining as a senior this year is Zach Yanke.
The CCAA includes Elliot Christian of Lodi, last year’s second-place team, and Sierra Ridge-Rite of Passage, which played Millennium to a 1-1 tie to keep the Falcons from having a perfect league record.
Tracy High’s soccer team goes into the 2012 season knowing that anything can happen in the San Joaquin Athletic Association.
“We never really know until we get to league. It’s up and down each year. Especially the last two or three years,” head coach Phil Kalis said. “Franklin will be good one year. Chavez has come on. Now that they’ve had a varsity program for a few years, they’ve been a real challenge. Really, any team can be good on any given day. It’s a good competitive balance.”
Tracy went 5-9-2 overall last year and finished the SJAA season in fourth place at 4-5-1, with Chavez the league champion, Lodi second and Franklin third.
While it could be anybody’s league again this year, the Bulldogs are confident that they’re in control of their own destiny.
“The one thing I’ve noticed this year, even in tryouts, it’s the best soccer I’ve seen played at Tracy High in my four years,” said senior team captain Paul Mayes, adding that he saw a style of teamwork in which everyone is engaged, no matter where the ball is on the field.
“Everyone knows that you’re not playing one position. You’re playing the whole field and working as a team,” he said. “It’s one of the best things I’ve seen so far.”
Mayes added that a scrimmage Monday, Aug. 20, against West, the Tri-City Athletic League’s defending champion, showed how tenacious the Bulldogs will be on the field.
“You look at what (West) did last year, and we’re out here competing with them. That’s what gives me confidence,” he said.
Mayes and senior Byron Munoz both were all-SJAA honorees last year. Other returning seniors are Grant Bessette, Matt Murman, Gabriel Vasquez, Jose Flores and Jerry Pelayo, and juniors who played varsity last year are Cristian Ramos, Adopho Inguanzo and Cameron Divoky.
“We know if we work hard and train hard and train as a team, and if we don’t get any silly injuries, we have a good chance of success this year,” Kalis said.
As Kimball High’s soccer team begins its fourth year, head coach Ron Hattley still seeks that balance between seasoned players and young talent on his varsity team.
“We have quick players. They’re just inexperienced,” Hattley said. “We’re trying to get where Kimball can bring in maybe one freshman to varsity, but we’re still not there. We have to use young kids. They’re teachable, though.”
Last year’s team, which went 8-12 overall and 4-10 in the Valley Oak League, included nine seniors who have since graduated. Seven of this year’s Jaguar varsity players are sophomores or freshmen, but the team still has a core of returning junior and senior players.
“We lost our seniors, and they were good players,” said Alberto Flores, a junior center midfielder. “We’re trying to set up the basics with a young team, a very young team.”
Flores is one of five players who begin their third year on the varsity. Three of them — seniors Jakob Aini, Juan Cardenas and Pastor Villagomez — have been with the Kimball program since its first year as a junior varsity team in 2009.
Junior sweeper Brett Lassiter, also in his third year on the varsity team, said everyone on the squad has the skills needed to be competitive.
“I feel like we’ve got base components to work with,” he said. “Everybody knows how to control the ball and pass well. We can work with that enough to be a really good passing team, and we can win games like that.”
Lassiter added that he had grown into his role as one of the team’s leaders, and he expected others would do the same.
“The older you get, the more intelligent a player you get to be. You get bigger and more physical, and you grow in skill.”
Other returning varsity players are seniors Mitchell Seitz Jr., Dillon Dander, Andres Martinez and Gavanjit Singh, junior Joshua Shuey and sophomore Ryan Chaney.
Kimball’s VOL rivals include East Union, last year’s league champion and Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV runner-up, second-place Sierra and third-place Manteca.
Delta Charter High coach Avo Atoian hopes to see his team become competitive this year.
Delta Charter has had a soccer team for the past two years, but until this year it hasn’t mustered enough players to make its mark.
The Dragons went 2-10 last year and usually had fewer than 11 players for games. Now, the Delta Charter team has 16 players on the roster before soccer practices start at the local charter school, which begins classes next week.
“We have more than we’ve ever had,” Atoian said. “They are all eager and able to play this year.”
They include returning players Jorge Soto, a junior who also was the team’s leading scorer, and seniors Mickey Dundee, Fabian Rodriguez and Memo Morquecho.
“If everything goes well and students who signed up to play show up, we have a pretty good chance.”
The team is practicing on the Koster Road campus but hasn’t selected a venue yet for home games.
Delta Charter will be one of the Mountain Valley League teams that will merge with the Central California Athletic Alliance for the fall soccer season.