2008 MANTECA BULLETIN ALL-AREA SOCCER TEAM
• Angel Abarca, East Union senior — The all-Valley Oak League first-team forward anchored the Lancers’ attack with impressive ball skills and deceptive speed. Of the team’s 34 goals in league, he accounted for 15 of them and assisted six others.
• Matty Gay, Ripon junior — The program’s all-time leading scorer at the frosh-soph level did not disappoint in his varsity debut, scoring seven goals while leading the area with 11 assists.
• Gabe Lopez, Manteca senior — VOL’s top sweeper anchored one of the conference’s best defenses. Was also asked to support the front line with his ball skills from midfield on occasion.
• David Molina, Weston Ranch freshman — Diminutive striker carries with him the hopes of the Cougars’ young program. Led the team with 12 goals in regular-season play.
• Diego Lopez, Ripon senior — All-TVL first-teamer was among area’s leading scorers with 10 goals and seven assists.
• J.J. Steigenga, Ripon Christian senior — Led the Knights in scoring for the second straight year with 10 goals and four assists.
• Victor Lemus, East Union senior — One of the area’s best passers dished out six assists in league play to go with four goals.
• Tim Hoekstra, Ripon Christian senior — The Knights’ lone representative on the all-TVL first team had four goals and two assists and was, at times, called upon to mark the opposition’s top attacker.
• Zach Slamon, Ripon sophomore — All-VOL first-team selection assisted eight goals.
• Brian Gomez, Sierra junior — Despite Sierra’s rebuilding season, the skilled and gritty Gomez caught the attention of VOL coaches and was voted to the all-conference first team.
• Cruz Hernandez, East Union freshman — Quick and highly-skilled fullback on the left wing also had a penchant for scoring big goals late in games.
• Alex Levy, Ripon senior — Anchored the Indians’ inexperienced back line at sweeper and was named to the all-TVL first team.
• Francisco Marmolejo, East Union junior — Helped form one of the area’s stingiest back lines with Hernandez on the other end. Earned all-league second-team honors.
• Antonio Martinez, Weston Ranch senior — Named to the all-VOL second team, Martinez was a field general for his young teammates as well as a top-rate goal stopper.
Eric Cavanaugh has his regrets.
Hindsight’s a crazy thing.
He could have put in more effort in practice.
He could have been more of a leader.
He could have taken every minute of every game more seriously.
As if finishing third among the state’s leading goal scorers for two years straight along with leaving behind a nearly untouchable career mark (90 goals) and new program record at Ripon High weren’t enough.
“Now I wish I could go back and do it all over again,” said Cavanaugh, the Bulletin’s All-Area Boys Soccer MVP. “It’s really cool to go down in school history, but at the same time I feel like I had the potential to do better. I didn’t do half bad, I guess.”
A skilled finisher and a physical presence willing to take punishment while dishing it out, the senior standout led area scorers for the second year in a row with 37 goals and five assists.
Cavanaugh was also voted the Trans Valley League’s MVP.
All things considered, six-year Ripon head coach Jamie DeBruyn isn’t on his star player’s case.
“I can’t complain what he did for us,” DeBruyn said. “He always showed up, and he rarely got injured.
“Thinking back, I don’t think he ever missed a game. He lost four teeth his sophomore year and came back the next day to play.
“He just has the inner ability to push himself and play through anything.”
That mentality is what makes the otherwise carefree Cavanaugh what he is on the pitch.
It was on full display in a key showdown against eventual TVL champion Riverbank Nov. 13, when he hobbled off the field with an ankle injury after scoring his second goal of the contest.
A minute after the reset, he re-entered the game and completed the hat trick seconds later to lead the Indians’ 4-2 victory.
Ripon’s season-ending game at Escalon, however, still leaves a sour taste in Cavanaugh’s mouth.
Needing just a tie to qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs, the Indians blew an early one-goal halftime lead and ceded three goals in the second half.
Ripon is 0-6 against Escalon during Cavanaugh’s final two of four varsity seasons.
“We didn’t really have that (mentality) of going out there and win the game, we just rolled over for them,” he said.
“Even though we took that lead we knew we were playing Escalon.
“We’ve lost to them so much that it seemed like that was hanging over our heads, and we played like it. It was like we were afraid.”
There is no denying the impact Cavanaugh has made at a school where soccer had long been an afterthought.
Cavanaugh led Ripon to three straight winning seasons, and in 2007 the Indians won their first-ever postseason game while shattering previous program records with 17 wins and 114 goals.
Cavanaugh hopes to extend his decorated soccer career at Stanislaus State next year. Until then, DeBruyn will be searching for another Eric Cavanaugh.
“He was involved in half of our goals this year,” DeBruyn said. “He’s a four-year varsity starter, and you don’t find many kids like that.
“He definitely will be missed. I don’t know how we can replace a player like that.”