Arik Anaya was the Trans-Valley League’s co-Most Valuable Player, a four-year talent as sure as the sun rises.
Jack Brierly was an offensive force, the Indians’ leader in both goals and assists.
Together, the two led the Indians to a runner-up finish in league play during their senior campaigns, culminating with a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth.
They left behind big shoes, to be sure, but head coach Jamie DeBruyn believes he has just the candidates to fill them.
Seniors Matt Uecker, and Flavio Valadao, junior Manny Sanchez and a host of first-time Indians will be called upon to fill the void. All told, it’s the richest collection of talent DeBruyn’s had in 11 seasons at the helm of the Indians soccer program.
“I expect a TVL title,” DeBruyn said without pause. “I have four guys that haven’t played for Ripon High that are pretty talented. If I can get those guys on the same page with the others ... this will be one of the more talented teams Ripon High has had.”
Let’s meet the Indians’ deep cast of game-changers, shall we?
Uecker is a third-year varsity player. His production has improved steadily each season. As a sophomore, Uecker tallied six goals. Last fall, he finished with three assists and eight goals — the most of any returning player.
His tallied a hat trick in a 5-1 victory over Hilmar on Oct. 1 and finished with three goals and an assist in two wins over Orestimba. He also had one of three goals against Escalon on Oct. 8.
Valadao showed flashes of promise in his varsity debut last fall. He scored once in a 2-0 victory over Hughson and tallied assists in back-to-back matches against Ripon Christian and Manteca.
His four total assists are also tops among returning varsity players.
The two are important pieces in head coach Jamie DeBruyn’s scheme.
Sophomore goalie Jonathan Soto allowed less than two goals per match and he’ll have familiar face along the backline in senior Nate Machado.
Sanchez was an all-league performer in 2012 and returns to the midfield, where he’ll be joined by varsity newcomers Mauricio Aguirre, Victor de la O and freshman Thomas Sidtikun.
Aguirre traded in his football pads for soccer cleats. The junior was a tailback for the Indians’ freshman and sophomore football teams the last two falls.
Sidtikun is the younger brother of All-Area Girls Soccer MVP Tia Sidtikun, now a freshman at Cal State Monterey Bay.
“I usually get concerned with the size of freshmen at the varsity level,” DeBruyn said, “but he has the size and speed and skill to play at this level.”
Alvarez might be the most talented of them all. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound defender is a player with next-level talent and all the requisite resume highlights. The senior played competitively with the some of the top club teams in the area, including the San Jose Earthquakes’ under-16 team. However, he’s never suited up for the Indians.
Grades have been a major issue.
“I think he’s at a crossroads right now. He wants to play in college, but he realizes his past mistakes may have limited him,” DeBruyn said. “I’m looking forward to watching him play. I think he’s already gained the respect from the returners. They’re enjoying playing with him.”
DeBruyn will know very quickly how well this assembled cast clicks.
Ripon opens the season Friday at Waterford, and then is scheduled to play Denair, Mariposa and Gregori on Saturday in the Husky Soccer Cup.
“We got a busy weekend and then we get Manteca on Tuesday,” DeBruyn said. “We might be tired, but oh well.”
The Indians closed the 2012 season 10-10 and finished with TVL play with a flurry to lock up a postseason berth.
Ripon won five of its last seven games, including a 4-0 decision over Hilmar on the regular season’s final day to wrap up second place.
However, the Indians’ stay in the playoffs was short. They were bounced by West Campus in the first round 4-1. Anaya netted Ripon’s only score.
“We lost Jack and Arik, which is huge,” DeBruyn said. “There was a point last spring and over the summer where I was concerned. When the guys started rolling in and we started finalizing our roster, I was a little at ease.”