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Expectations remain high despite loss of injured midfielder
Regina Dias connects for a header while East Union battles Kimball in a Valley Oak League match last April. - photo by HIME ROMERO

East Union’s girls soccer coach Jim Todd could do without this side of the sport – tryouts.

The Lancers officially began their Valley Oak League title defense last Monday with 64 players scattered about the fields at Northgate Park.

Monday was the first day teams could start working with a ball, per Sac-Joaquin Section rule.

Of those 64, Todd and co-head coach Juan Sandoval made 15 cuts. The number of players in camp is expected to get even larger with basketball and cheerleading seasons coming to a fast close.

“This whole tryout process is so rough,” said Todd, who’d like to carry 42 players between his junior varsity and varsity teams.

“I still got people who won’t look at me when I’m at the store because they’ve been cut.”

The one player Todd had hoped to see in action – the one he had hoped would set the tone during this time of conditioning and drills – won’t kick a soccer ball this spring.

Crafty midfielder and team captain Regina Dias will miss her junior season after having multiple surgeries on her left knee.

Dias suffered the injury during a 3-1 victory over Manteca in their regular season finale last spring.

She was bumped off the ball by a Buffalo defender in the 44th minute and shrieked as she fell to the ground.  Her knee was shredded. Dias had surgery to repair her meniscus in May and ACL on Aug. 21.

 “The game was inconsequential going into playoffs,” he added. “I don’t believe in bad luck or jinxing, but it was tough realizing she was done for her junior year, too.”

Also a varsity volleyball player, Dias won’t be cleared to resume sports until August.

“It’s been a really long process,” she said. “It’s been difficult to watch the team practicing.”

East Union (13-0-1, 19-2-3) put the finishing wraps on its Valley Oak League championship without Dias, but was bounced in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs by Central Catholic.

“Winning VOL was nice,” Todd said, “but to get the curtain call so quickly in the playoffs was rough.

“Injuries come along. (Dias’) just meant that she was out the whole next year. Was that a loss to our program? Oh yeah. She’s a competitor.”

East Union won’t be at a loss for talent.

Not even close.

The Lancers possess an embarrassment of riches at nearly every position, and return three sets of dynamic sisters.

Isela Rivera is the reigning VOL MVP after posting a 29-goal, 15-assist season. Her highlights included a stunning chest-turned-volley against Manteca. The entry pass came from sister Isabela, who closed her freshman season with 10 assists.

Seniors Kianna and Kayla Lamont are fourth-year varsity players. Kianna will play at Cal State East Bay next fall.

Adrieanna and Rose Wood are the third set of sisters. Adrieanna was a second-team all-VOL goalie.

“I feel like we’ll be competitive. I don’t want to sound like we’re the team to beat,” said Todd, whose schedule begins with games against Bret Harte and Merced at the Pitman Extreme Tournament on Feb. 22.

“We’ll field two competitive teams and I think we’ll be a team to battle with.”

Todd also expects Dias will reprise her role as team leader, albeit from the sideline.

She was the creative genius behind East Union’s offensive attack. She had 10 goals and eight assists last spring, earning All-Area and all-VOL honors.

More importantly, she was a piston in practice, pushing her team through conditioning and drills.

“When you lose a warrior – and she is a warrior – you have to plug a couple of people in,” Todd said. “There are several players who stepped up in the Central Catholic game, and there are still several players getting better in their own game. We’ll miss her, but people will step up.”