Striker of the Year
Miguel Barbosa, East Union senior: Prolific scorer started off the 2011 season on fire, netting nine goals in eight non-league matches and added two more in three SJS Division-IV playoff contests. His production is outstanding considering he shared time with two others at the position.
Midfielder of the Year
Jose Acosta, Sierra senior: The area’s top points producer amassed 23 goals and 20 assists, starting the season with 11 goals in the Timberwolves’ first four matches. Acosta earned style points, too, producing some of the year’s most acrobatic goals.
Defender of the Year
Cruz Hernandez, East Union senior: Four-year varsity starter anchored the Lancers’ run to their first VOL title in 18 years. Showed his versatility when he moved to forward for a half to bury two of his four goals in a 3-1 league comeback win over league rival Oakdale.
Jairo Baires, East Union junior: The heir apparent to Barbosa as the Lancers’ top scorer proved to be just as good a set-up man (eight assists) as a finisher (11 goals).
Amir Guedoir, Sierra senior: Tall, rangy, athletic and skilled, Guedoir was a mismatch for most defenders. He netted 14 goals and assisted 12 others.
Victor Garibay, East Union senior: Sneaky scorer headed in two of his overall nine goals off headers in a 5-2 upset of powerhouse Central Valley in an SJS Division IV semifinal.
Nico Gonzalez, Sierra junior: Exciting midfielder missed Sierra’s two playoff games and several others in the regular season with different injuries but still manufactured 14 goals.
Alex Hernandez, Manteca freshman: One of the area’s top young standouts was a terror on the left side, coming up with 13 assists — mostly on accurate crosses — and four goals.
Jordan Kron, East Union junior: After his 2010 season was derailed by a nasty ankle injury, this multi-sport star came through with 13 assists while firing five goals.
David Molina, Weston Ranch senior: Arguably one of the area’s most versatile players may have also been the most talented. Four-year starter scored eight goals in VOL play.
Alejandro Gonzalez, Sierra senior: Two-time all-area selection and all-VOL first-team member quietly had another strong season on a squad powered by a prolific offense.
Sergio Lopez, Manteca senior: Lathrop High transfer helped Manteca allow an area-low 1.43 goals per game while aiding the attack with a goal and five assists.
Oral Nunis, Manteca senior: The Buffaloes’ back-line enforcer was also a threat on counterattacks, finishing with four assists on the year.
Dominic Riella, East Union junior: Riella was at his best during some of EU’s biggest games. He allowed 20 goals in 24 appearances — eight of which ended in shutouts.
— Jonamar Jacinto
Giovanni Marin was a freshman when he moved to Manteca from Mexico.
He had no friends and was separated from his brother, Ricardo, then an eighth grader, during school hours. His English was limited, as was his experience in an organized team sport.
Joining the Manteca High soccer team, he figured, would help solve some of those issues.
Problem: He transferred to the school in November that year.
“The first thing I wanted when I came here was to play soccer, but someone told me the season was over,” Marin said.
And look at him now.
The Manteca Bulletin’s 2011 All-Area Boys Soccer MVP has a firm grasp of a second language and is a part of a tight-knit fraternity of Buffalo soccer players. Additionally, he now boasts a GPA higher than 3.0 after struggling to make grades early in his high school career.
This fall, Marin was named MVP of the Valley Oak League after leading Manteca to a third-place finish and a Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoff appearance. The Buffaloes were in position to capture at least a share of the VOL title before losing 1-0 to outright champ East Union on the final day of the regular season.
Marin produced 17 goals and 10 assists. As a junior he scored 14 goals and assisted eight others while earning all-VOL second-team recognition.
“I didn’t know I’d get it,” the humble Marin said of receiving the VOL’s top honor. “I just play. I really don’t know how I got it.”
He quickly rose from obscurity in three years time. A rangy athlete with terrific ball skills, Marin has a knack for being at the right place at the right time. Marin possesses a natural feel for the game, which would make one wonder how he got to be so good despite his lack of prior experience with a club team.
“I started playing with older people,” said Marin, whose game developed as a youngster in pickup games. “When I came here my friends asked me, ‘Why are you so good?’ I just said, ‘I don’t know, I just play like this.’ I think it was because I played a lot with people who were older and bigger than me.”
In his first season with the program, he and Ricardo led Manteca to the Valley Oak League’s frosh-soph championship.
As a junior he got to put his talents on full display for a team that narrowly missed the playoffs. The Buffaloes went 8-4-2 in what was a competitive VOL race, and 11-9-3 overall.
Manteca enjoyed more success this past season, including a 4-1 stunner over defending league champ Sierra. It went 9-3-2 in league and 13-7-3 overall, but head-scratching losses to last-place Weston Ranch and Oakdale would come back to bite the Buffs in the end.
Still, their second-half run through the league schedule was epic. They ripped off six straight victories to secure a playoff berth and make their league finale with EU mean something.
Marin scored five goals and five assists during that stretch and even took on a different role to help preserve leads in big games.
“It was different for me, but when I played defense I learned a lot,” he said. “It made me (a) stronger (player).”
Manteca’s disappointing end to the season was also an emotional one for the Marins.
In the out-bracket game of the Division-IV playoffs, Livingston overcame an early deficit to edge the Buffaloes, 3-2.
Ricardo assisted Giovanni’s early goal and scored one of his own late, but Livingston netted three unanswered in between. Giovanni missed many more opportunities to score, including one on a bicycle kick on the last play of the game.
“My goal was to win a championship this year with him because this was our last year together,” Marin said. “My brother motivated me to keep playing hard — he’s more of a leader.”
While is ultimate goals were not reached, Giovanni Marin has achieved a lot in his time at Manteca High — both on the pitch and away from it.