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Striking up a local connection

Three locals have led The Master’s College to the NAIA Tournament

Posted: November 24, 2009 10:53 p.m.
Updated: November 25, 2009 4:30 a.m.

(From left to right) The Master's College soccer players Joel Peluffo, David Alegria and Fabrice Gautrat are all graduates of local high schools and have helped lead the Mustangs to the NAIA national tournament.

Take a glance down The Master’s College men’s soccer team roster.

A few names might be familiar.

Atop the list of accolades and amidst the starting lineup, a local connection has proven vital to the Mustangs’ Golden State Athletic Conference championship, and their run in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Tournament.

Part of that connection has come from the personal and athletic evolutions of 2008 Hart graduate Joel Peluffo, 2006 Hart graduate Fabrice Gautrat and 2008 Saugus graduate David Alegria, and began developing years ago from high school competition.

“I know what (Peluffo) likes to do from defending against him,” says Alegria, who played against Peluffo in 2008 and Gautrat in 2006.

“I know what his favorite runs are to make. So when I’m looking for him on the field, I can play the ball he wants that much better, because there is that connection there. I can read his mind, so to speak. We are on the same page.”

Peluffo, the 2008 All-Foothill League Player of the Year, leads the team with 14 goals to go along with three assists. His goal total is tied for second in the GSAC, which landed him a spot on the all-conference team.

“I score a lot of goals with great assists from the team,” Peluffo says. “It’s pretty much the team.”

The 6-foot forward moved to Newhall from Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2006 with his family.

“For sure, it was different from soccer I played in Argentina,” he says. “The level was really good (here). Here it’s more physical, more like a contact sport. In Argentina, it’s more the touches are different.”

In his first season with TMC, the former Indian scored two goals and made  three assists.

According to Peluffo, the key to his breakout has a lot to do with a move from midfield to forward, as well as a change in team formation and the added team chemistry from only losing one senior.

“I think it just helps the community, as far as bringing out fans and showing that we have college-level players that can make an impact,” says TMC head coach Jim Rickard of his team’s local products. “I think sometimes, the focus is on the kids that go (NCAA) Division I, but these kids that are here probably have the ability to be there. They just want to be at a Christian school. They want to be close to home.”

Alegria nearly didn’t play for The Master’s, instead looking to enlist into the Marines.

But the sophomore was convinced to give college a one-year chance by his family and club soccer coach.

The Mustangs are glad he decided to stay.

Last year, Alegria went to summer boot camp for the Marines and has been pleased with the results.

“In the Marines, you have to be ready for anything,” he says. “Anything that is thrown at you, you have to be prepared to switch. You know, you might be doing one thing one second and the next second, you might get your order to do something completely different that you didn’t see coming. Coming back, I was a lot more enthusiastic about the sport,” he said. “I’d say I was a lot more aggressive on the field. I thought it made me a better player.”

For TMC, defense was thrown at him, and he, along with Gautrat, have played integral roles in the Mustangs’ 12 shutouts this season.

For Gautrat, it was life that was thrown his way.

The 6-foot-1-inch defender spent a year redshirting at the University of San Diego.

Unhappy with the direction he was going and the impact his personal decisions were having on him and his career, Gautrat decided to make a drastic change.

That change materialized in the form of a 10-month stay in France with his aunt.

During his time in France, Gautrat played amateur soccer with Etoile Sportif La Ciotat in the town of La Ciotat, just east of Marseille.

“I really went there with the pursuit of getting better as a soccer player,” he says. ‘My dream has always been to play pro.”

Away from the everyday distractions he experienced in college, Gautrat was able to focus purely on the sport he loved.

He developed composure with the ball in high-pressure games.

“If I don’t play well, it screws up my whole week,” he says.

But then hampered by injuries, without friends or familiarity, Gautrat began to hit bottom.

“I couldn’t play, I didn’t have friends, I didn’t have school, but I think the Lord brought those trials into my life,” he says. “He revealed himself to me.”

While in La Ciotat, Gautrat says he became a Christian, and soon headed back to the United States with a new set of priorities.

He says the transition back to life in the U.S. was simple.

And with that success, TMC sits poised to make a big statement when the team travels to Fresno for the NAIA tournament. The Mustangs’ next game is Monday at 2 p.m. against Indiana Tech.

It also expects continued poise demonstrated by Peluffo, Alegria and Gautrat, whose life experiences have shaped their games and their lives.

“I think what it does is it helps us use community kids to put us on the map,” Rickard says. “Most of the schools in the NAIA, the final 16 teams, they are predominantly international players. Not like (us), we have four or five or whatever, they’ve got their whole starting lineup is international players. I think it is a credit to American soccer that we can have local kids be playing at this level with a few international flavored in there.”



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