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STARTING OVER

Area teams aim to get back to playoffs

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STARTING OVER

Sierra's David Reyes advances the ball to a teammate Wednesday at Sierra High, where the T'Wolves were preparing for Saturday's Timberwolves Cup.

BRANDON PETERSEN/The Bulletin


POSTED August 26, 2009 6:15 p.m.
The 2008 soccer season was a rough one for area teams.

Manteca, fresh of its Valley Oak League championship campaign, battled injuries to key players all season and quickly fell out of the race for a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff spot.

Rival East Union and Ripon of the Trans Valley League both finished third in their respective conferences, but neither qualified for the postseason. Ripon was in the hunt before dropping a heartbreaking loss to Escalon in the final contest of the season, and it was Escalon that snatched up the final berth in the TVL.

Sierra and Ripon Christian took their lumps while rebuilding. Weston Ranch finished last in the VOL but took positive steps forward under first-year coach Carlos Gaspar, and Jay Mamorno’s frosh-soph squad at Lathrop High showed promise but will now be tested in its first varsity season without seniors.

Crosstown rivals Central Valley and Ceres duked it out for the VOL banner, with the former edging its neighboring foes by a point. Riverbank claimed the title in the TVL. 

The following is a season outlook for each of the seven area teams:

VALLEY OAK

East Union

The Lancers, 7-5-2 in the VOL and 8-8-4 overall last year, took major hits on the offensive end. Talented scorer Angel Abarca and playmakers Victor Lemus and Adrian Quant graduated.

Coach Clarence Goes hoped for sophomore Cruz Hernandez, who shined in every position he played in his rookie year, to fill in at striker, but may be gone for the season because of personal reasons.

Question marks surround the attacking lines, but East Union is stacked in the back line. Mark Laroque, Jorge Saldate, Manuel Montanez, Jordan Jeffery and Alvaro Lemus anchor the defense along with all-league second-team GK Joe Modesto.

Julio Pimentel will be the team’s top player up front but needs help. The Lancers’ senior-heavy roster features just two underclassmen — junior midfielder/forward Gabriel Avalos and sophomore defender Victor Garibay — that should be key contributors.

Lathrop

The Spartans may not have a senior on the roster, but that doesn’t mean Lathrop can’t or won’t compete in the always rigorous VOL.

Last season, head coach Jay Mamorno and the frosh-soph Spartans picked up steam midway through and finished fourth overall in league after spending most of the fall near the bottom of the standings.

This year, Lathrop will ask an exciting class of six freshmen to infuse with the upperclassmen and provide a spark. Lathrop will rely heavily on freshmen George Cardenas (right striker), Omar Guzman (keeper) and Danny Becerra.

Cardenas plays much bigger than his frame and was a standout for the Manteca Futbol Club in recent years.

Juniors Miguel Chavez, Ernesto Lua, Joel Ojeda and Oscar Mejia-Purcios must provide leadership for the young Spartans, while sophomores Wilmer Alvarez and Mauro Aldana will play pivotal roles as well.

Mamorno says that wins and losses in 2009 won’t be nearly as important as the growth of his players and his team as a whole, but Lathrop looks to be anything but a pushover heading into its first contest at Gustine Monday afternoon.

Manteca

Two seasons off a VOL championship, the Buffaloes, who finished 3-7-4 in league and 6-11-5 overall a season ago, are rebuilding after losing 13 seniors to graduation.

Captains Yassen Aniss, Gabe Lopez and Jesus Belmonte are gone, as are keeper Jared Woolf and ball-hawk Eulalio Felix-Salazar, which leaves behind a number of questions across the pitch that the Buffaloes must answer.

Head coach Justin Coenenberg will look to a number of new faces this season to contribute, including Jose Salas at midfield and Gonzalo Cerna at sweeper.

Both Salas and Cerna contributed a year ago a juniors, but seniors Victor Soto, Jessi Linares, Michael Guillory, Jesus Espinoza and Derrick Costa will be asked to boost their production exponentially.

Offensively, the Buffaloes will lean on senior Vince Herrera at forward, while juniors Marvin Foerster and Jose Maravilla will look to put points on the board as well.

Sierra

The Timberwolves (2-10-2, 4-18-2) have been rebuilding since reaching the section’s Division IV playoff final in 2006, and coach Jose Montes’ patience could pay off for 2009.

Montes pulled up several players from last year’s frosh-soph VOL championship squad to mix in with talented members from the senior class. Back are skilled forwards Brian Gomez and Ricky Pacheco along with all-VOL first-team defender Emmanuel Ortiz. Montes said senior Luis Garcia has been a welcomed surprise at goalie.

Sophomore Alex Gonzalez led the frosh-soph in scoring last season and will join Gomez and Pacheco on the attacking third. Defender Caleb Young and transfer Jesus Rodriguez are two of the team’s three juniors.

Other underclassmen looking to make a splash in their varsity debuts are freshman midfielder Eric Noriega, sophomore midfielder Aaron Montes, sophomore midfielder Joel Bolin and sophomore Edwin Perez.

Sierra will find out just how good they are right away. The T’Wolves open with San Joaquin Athletic Association powerhouse Franklin today. Franklin and reigning VOL champ Central Valley are also in their flight for Saturday’s 17th Annual Timberwolves Cup.

Weston Ranch

Sophomore sensation David Molina returns after scoring 12 goals in 14 regular-season games as a freshman. Molina will head an exciting group of forwards that should make up the strength of the Cougars, who finished 3-10-1 in league last year, 5-11-1 overall.

Senior Margarito Juarez should also collect his fair share of goals, and B.J. Gonzalez, a late-comer in 2008, will round out the attacking third.

Christian Asencio is being moved from forward to defense to add stability there, and he will be joined by promising freshman sweeper Eduardo Pacheco. Jesus Pacheco takes over in the goal box for all-league honoree Antonio Martinez.

Weston Ranch is full of first-year varsity players this year. Coach Carlos Gaspar said his program’s talented freshman class has varsity-worthy players, but he’ll keep them down to maintain some level of continuity on the frosh-soph team.

TRANS VALLEY

Ripon

The Indians (10-4-1, 15-9-1) have boasted one of the most explosive front lines around, but gone is 2009 Bulletin All-Area Player of the Year Eric Cavanaugh, the program’s all-time leading scorer and one of the state’s most prolific goal-getter for two straight seasons.

Returning all-league senior Matty Gay, who set the frosh-soph team’s scoring record, will look to pick up the slack along with junior Jared Berglund.

What was once a young defense has now become the team’s strength. Senior sweeper and third-year varsity starter Caleb Christian anchors the backline and will be aided by Johnny DeDonatis and Brett Clark in protecting GK Tim Combly. Basketball standout Matt Ratto took his junior year off from the pitch but returns to add depth on defense.

Coach Jamie DeBruyn expect big things out of first-year varsity players Bryant Macias (junior MF), Alex Wever (junior MF), Christian Plata (sophomore MF/DEF) and Arik Anaya (freshman FWD/MF).

Ripon Christian

Three-year varsity captains Greg Mulder and Steve Vander Molen and keeper Ben DeRuiter return to solidify the defense for the Knights (1-13-1, 3-19-1), but who will do the scoring?

Ripon Christian has just three seniors to replace, though two of them, J.J. Steigenga and Tim Hoekstra, were all-TVL performers and the team’s leading scorers. Tim Hoeksma, Scott Faure and Mark Van Spronsen showed flashes as sophomores and will look to fill the void.

Jake Groen, Dylan Van Vliet and Cody Kepler were also playing varsity as sophomores, and they will compete for time in the back field.

Bulletin reporter Brandon Petersen contributed to this report.

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