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2013-14 Foothill League Boys Soccer Preview

League’s history, graduation of key players leave door open for lots of surprises

Posted: January 11, 2014 12:43 p.m.
Updated: January 11, 2014 12:43 p.m.

Hart sophomore midfielder Derek Waldeck was one of the league's most versatile players last year.

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The trend of Foothill League boys soccer in recent year has been waves of momentum and fast-changing fortunes.

Canyon won three straight league titles from 2008-2010, only to finish last place a year ago.

Prior to the 2011-12 season, neither West Ranch nor Valencia had won boys soccer league titles in school history. Now West Ranch has two and Valencia nabbed its first last season.

So what surprises could 2013-14 possibly bring?

Given a strong preleague showing, perhaps Hart is in position to win its first league title since 2007-08. For Saugus, it was 2006-07 when it last hoisted the league crown.

Or maybe an improved Golden Valley team could join the trend of first-time league winners this year.

With the high turnover of players in this league, it seems like anything is possible.

Valencia

It doesn’t really matter what personnel Valencia has. As long as Tony Scalercio is the team’s head coach, he’s going to make the team fit the same style its always played.

The Valencia Vikings will play the same defensive-minded, ball-control scheme that helped it win its first Foothill League title in program history last year.

And that’s despite the fact that the Vikings (5-1-4) graduated off Signal All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year Zach Klindworth as well as Foothill League Player of the Year Jake Veiga and a host of other All-league honorees.

The defending league champions are left with one of the youngest of the Foothill teams.

“It’s certainly a rebuilding year. We’re very young,” Scalercio said. “We’ve been working on a lot of team tactics and through preseason just finding out which guys will be able to contribute during league and at different times different guys have stepped up to that role.”

Up top, Valencia will have third-year varsity player Lukas Scalercio stepping in to play forward. He’s been limited as of late with a hamstring injury.

The other forwards are sophomores Diego Valencia and Anthony Alfonso, who are both new to varsity.

Goals haven’t come in bunches this year for Valencia, but the defense still appears to be stout with senior returner Julian De Vita leading the group as the sweeper.

Playing behind him is impressive goalkeeper Cole Murphy, who sat out last season after transferring from West Ranch High.

The Vikings are also solid with returning senior center midfielder Colton Morgan playing alongside Robert Talamantez.

“We’re definitely not going to be a pushover, but we’re going to have to work for everything we get,” Scalercio said.

West Ranch

A team that has been one of the Foothill League’s top teams in recent years is operating under its third head coach in a span of four seasons.

Despite the coaching turnover, first-year head coach Fausto Arana and the West Ranch Wildcats will be stocked with talent once again and will be hard to overlook.

“They have to adapt to new coach, to a new philosophy. We started out a little slow, but in the end the last three games, the team started getting into the coaching philosophy,” said Arana, who was previously the head coach at Hart from 2008-11 and Golden Valley during the 2011-12 season.

West Ranch won two straight Foothill crowns before falling short of a third consecutive one after a loss in the league finale to Valencia last year.

So far, the Wildcats are off to a low start at 2-6-2, but Arana says it’s no reason to panic.

West Ranch will be led by the “two towers” in Zack Sage and Rhys Weatley, a pair of tall, powerful senior defenders in the middle.

In the midfield, West Ranch will be solid with center mid and senior captain Eddie Trujillo and fellow senior captain Derek Milleman on the outside.

Those two, along with center mid Brendan Moskal, will likely be the team’s top scoring threats.

Some of that offensive responsibility will also fall on the shoulders of junior striker and first-year varsity player Max Cawley.

The Wildcats will go without impressive goalkeeper Alex Manzo, who decided to play academy soccer during his senior year.

Hart

This is the third year in a row Hart will enter Foothill competition as the hottest team in the league.

The two previous times, the Hart Indians came up short of a league title with a second-place finish in 2011-12 and a third-place finish last season.

Third-year head coach Adonay Jovel says that trend can change this year with a team that may have less raw talent but more solidarity than in past years.

“Their understanding of the game is a little better and they play as a group and they move the ball well so we could play any system we want to play,” Jovel said.

With a lot of players shifting around to fill gaps, Hart has once again started well with a 6-3-2 record and a second-place finish in the Hart Showcase tournament.

Impressive sophomore center midfielder Derek Waldeck is one of two returning All-SCV first teamers this year, though he’s recovering from a knee injury sustained on Dec. 30.

His older brother, senior Riley Waldeck, will also start for the team as a defender after moving from his attacking midfielder position last year.

Where Hart has played three defenders in the back in years past, the team is switching to a four-man defense given the relative lack of size.

Still, the Indians are working well with the players they have on board.

Another set of brothers playing this year Brayon and Jeysen Rodriguez, a senior midfielder and junior forward, respectively.

In all, Hart brings back 10 players who saw at least some varsity action last season.

Others included in that group include senior goalkeeper Kevin Ponek and defenders Anthony Salvadori, Jose Pena and Nicholas Tamashiro.

Saugus

When its at its best, Saugus might be the most dangerous team in the Foothill League.

The question will be whether or not this young team can find the consistency it needs.

“So far I’ve been very happy with how we’ve been playing,” said Saugus head coach Seth Groller. “I think we’ve had probably two pretty poor games but every other game we’ve been doing pretty well and at least put ourselves in contention.”

Though the Saugus Centurions (7-6) return just four varsity players this year, the roster is made up of one of the more well-rounded group of athletes in the league.

After winning the starting job midway through last season, senior goalkeeper Noah Maynard has elevated to one of the strongest keepers in the area.

He’ll be joined on the field by three other senior returners in skilled forward Liam Sikich, stout defender Colin Maher, and fourth-year varsity player Steven Reano.

Though it hasn’t been a perfect preleague season for Saugus, the team has shown positive signs in both the Burroughs tournament and the Hart Showcase.

In replacement of 2012-13 All-SCV first teamers Brian Perez and Zack Nua, Saugus is filling in with sophomore midfielder Danny Macias, junior forward Nick Peploe and defenders Matt Skier and Evan Hildebrand.

“I was a little nervous about this season, but the way that this team has come together and sort of stepped up in a big way is really nice to see and it gives us a lot of hope for this league season,” Groller said.

Golden Valley

The Golden Valley Grizzlies haven’t won more than seven games in a season since 2007-08.

Already, this team full of young talent is near that mark with a 6-6-2 record and lots of promise under first-year head coach Juan Paolo.

“I don’t believe there’s such a word as rebuild in high school because to me rebuild is two or three years. By the time you’re done with the rebuild, everyone is gone,” Paolo said.

The former Pete Knight High head coach said he believes the team has 17 players who can rotate in at any time with little to no drop-off.

That starting rotation is led by outstanding do-everything sophomore and returning All-SCV first teamer Francisco Perez, who’s already recorded eight goals this season.

Also providing help offensively will be junior forward Levon Ekmekchyan, junior Joel Velasco and senior Billy Torres.

With Golden Valley using a three-defender system, it will likely be the most offensive minded team in the league.

That being said, the bulk of the team’s experience will hold the backline with senior Michael Richardson playing defense and both Caesar Romo and Torres playing hybrid midfielder/defensive roles.

Canyon

Though not many players on the Canyon Cowboys return from last season, the ones who do remember how frustrating 2012-13 was.

That group is hungry to make up for an 0-9-1 finish in league last year.

“I definitely see something in their eyes this year that they really don’t want to lose those close games like last year,” said second-year Canyon head coach Lou Aguilera.

Due to injuries, Canyon has yielded mixed results so far with 4-4-2 record, but there is reason for optimism moving forward.

If senior forward Giovanny Ortiz and senior defender Mike Pinon can recover from their knee injuries by the start of league play, they’ll provide needed experience.

Other than those two, the most experienced player coming back is senior and fourth-year varsity goalkeeper Niko Nuyda.

But where the Cowboys may fall short in experience, they more than make up for with a cast of promising and eager players.

“In order to get past (last year’s frustration), just playing as a unit, playing together and trusting each other,” Aguilera said. “I think this team has a lot more chemistry.”

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