Victor Polanco isn’t looking back. He isn’t asking “what if.”
As far as the East Union boys soccer coach is concerned the 2012 season done, done, done.
Clearly, though, a season foiled by forfeits still stings.
The Lancers’ hopes of defending their 2011 Valley Oak League championship were dashed when they were forced to forfeit two blowout wins because Polanco played an ineligible player.
At the time, Polanco said he was unaware the player – a seldom-used substitute – was ineligible.
The losses knocked East Union out of contention and allowed Sierra and Manteca, which the Lancers beat decidedly in their first meeting, to split the conference title.
“Last year is last year,” snapped Polanco, entering his fourth year as head coach. “It’s gone. I’m not focused on the past. That’s already done. We forget that part and focus on this year. We forfeited games – it’s done. I’m focused on right now.”
Polanco likes what he has, too, though there’s hardly a household name among the bunch.
East Union graduated 13 players, including All-Area performers Jordan Kron and Alfredo Solorzano. Kron played four varsity seasons for the Lancers, while Solorzano was a threat to score each time he touched the ball.
What Polanco has at his disposal is a balanced 22-man roster, infused by a junior class that finished second in the VOL a year ago under the direction of frosh-soph coach Edgar Zelaya.
Polanco praised Zelaya for preparing the program’s younger players for the leap to the varsity game.
“We’re on the same page,” Polanco said of Zelaya. “I’m trying to run this program from the bottom to the top.”
Polanco will use that group to surround a small but immensely talented core of returning players. That group is rooted in the defensive third, with the likes of seniors Jose Luis Cerda and Mario Zuniga and senior goalie Abel Lopez.
Senior midfielders Marco Mata and Rigo Jaurique will likely control the midfield for the Lancers. Jaurique returns to the field after missing all of last season.
They are but a few pieces, Polanco says. His team’s strength will be its depth across the board, and the competition battles in camp have been interesting.
He won’t name a starting 11, because he’s confident all 22 could start.
“I prepare my team to depend on the whole team,” Polanco said. “Everyone helps, one way or another. Everyone counts to me.”
East Union opens the season at the Pitman tournament in Turlock Aug. 30-31. The Lancers will scrimmage McNair and Modesto on Sept. 5 and Sept. 10, respectively, before starting league play on Sept. 17 at Sonora.
“We’re preparing for the season. It’s going to be a good season for us,” Polanco said. “Our goal is to win the VOL championship. Of course, we have to go game by game because it is a competition. It’s going to be a good competition.
“Everybody is growing. Lathrop is starting to come up, but Sierra and Manteca and us are working hard with the kids to win the VOL ... to be in the playoffs.”
When asked if the title runs through his crosstown rivals, Polanco stops short of an affirmative answer.
He knows the all-around talent the VOL possesses.
“We have to take care of everything and not just focus on Manteca and Sierra,” Polanco said. “We have to take care of every game if we want to win.”
To contact James Burns, e-mail email@example.com.