After a strong start, the boys varsity soccer team has faded and seen its hopes of a post-season dashed. But with a roster full of young talent, the team will look to build off of the improvements made this year to become a SCVAL De Anza League force.
A little under halfway through league play, Los Altos had accumulated a healthy 3-1-0 record (8-3-0 overall), positioned to contend for one of the three or four CCS berths typically granted in the league, a turnaround from finishing fifth and staving off relegation last year.
The next three games, however, pitted them against Los Gatos, Santa Clara and Palo Alto, the top three teams in the league. Only able to salvage one tie out of the three games and splitting a two game set with Gunn and Saratoga, the team slipped to a 4-4-1 league record. Though Coach Vava Marques acknowledged the team wasn’t helped by the untimely absences of key players, he isn’t making excuses.
“We’ve been very unlucky,” Marques said. “Against Los Gatos, we lost two players. Against Palo Alto, we lost five. But that’s the way it is. You have to make the situation into a positive.”
The largest blow to the team’s success came with the loss of senior goalkeeper Edgar Palominos. With backup senior Kevin Maudhardt sidelined earlier this year, junior Brian Walz, normally a field player, now starts in goal. Improvising in goal is not something new for the team.
“We lost our goalkeepers last year, too,” Marques said. “We have had to adjust as a team.”
In spite of some rough patches, the team has greatly improved from last year. Compared to last year’s squad, this year’s team features a much more balanced lineup, which has clearly made a difference when attempting to weather a stormy section of the season.
“We are all-around better and we have depth,” Marques aid. “Last year, we had three or four players who we relied on. To win, they would have to have good games. But this year we are more consistent.”
The team usually runs a 4-5-1 formation, with one defender, typically captain senior Mike Clark, deployed as a sweeper/defensive midfielder and only one forward leading the attack. Much of the team’s success can be found in its strong defense. The backline returns six players, including its starting five, comprised of Mike, senior Elio Champenois, juniors Ross Bilger and Eric Madrigal and sophomore Meric Safai.
“We gained a lot of experience playing in the upper division, and we’ve been able to adjust to the higher level of play,” Mike said.
Captain senior Sam Vesuna, captain junior James Sweetman and junior Parker Spielman each bring three years of varsity experience to the midfield. Also starting is freshman Jacob Valdez, one of the three freshmen on varsity. He is a part of the youth movement that will hopefully pay dividends next year.
“Having young players helps us big time, especially the freshmen,” Marques said. “Next year they will bring a lot of experience.”
With the team still improving, the school is primed to be a major contender in the SCVAL De Anza Division in the near future.