Things didn’t go as planned for Francisco Cisneros in his first season at the helm of the Weston Ranch boys soccer program.
Though talented, the Cougars struggled with confidence and it showed in their rapid descent in the first two months of the season.
Weston Ranch opened the season with a resounding 3-0 road victory at Stagg and began September with a 6-1 decision over Orestimba to move to 2-2.
Then came the slide.
Weston Ranch wouldn’t win again for 27 days — a string of six losses and one tie.
The Cougars won just one Valley Oak League game and finished the season 3-15-2 overall. Eleven of those losses came in league play.
Fortunately, while a season of struggle played out at the varsity level, there was a silver lining developing at the lower level.
Cisneros’ frosh-soph program clinched the VOL championship outright, giving the second-year coach reason for hope in 2013.
Five members from that championship team make the leap to varsity: sophomore winger Kevin Medina, sophomore midfielder/striker Joseph Mayorca, sophomore defender Alex Gonzalez, and junior sweeper-stopper combination Victor Munoz and Luis Esparaza.
“For so many years, our program has been used to losing. A lot of the battle has been mental. We had to convince our guys they were better than that,” Cisneros said. “This year, we have that love to compete and they’re not afraid. I think it will help us in the long run.
“Mentally, they’re strong and ready to take on the challenge. When you’re so used to losing year after year it becomes a mental block.”
While the speed and physicality of the game are much different among upperclassmen, the group has proven themselves competitive.
The 2012 frosh-soph team went unbeaten for the season – a strong sign that better days are ahead for a downtrodden program. Its only blip en route to the VOL title was a tie.
Cisneros loves the natural bond and cohesiveness his newest players share on the field. The five of them, he said, have been playing together since they were 6.
“Last year, we had good players – a lot of good players,” Cisneros added. “But a lot of them pick up soccer when they’re freshmen. ... This year is the first year we have five or six guys that have played soccer since they were 6. We’re getting a much more experienced team, even though they’re just sophomores.”
Weston Ranch needs the reinforcements.
The Cougars lost a bulk of their offensive leaders to graduation, including midfielders Antobelly Guzman (three goals) and Jareth Guzman (one goal), and forwards Victor Trejo (three goals) and Enrique Jimenez (team-best six goals).
The Cougars will surround their youth with a stable of returning players that anchor the spine of the field. Jose Andrade is expected to start in goal with defender Sal Molina providing protection along the backline.
Both Andrade and Molina are seniors.
Junior Hector Maldonado will be a conductor on offense from his center midfield position. The Cougars will work mostly out of the 4-4-2 formation, while occasionally switching into a more aggressive 3-4-3.
Maldonado will have a target in senior forward William Giron, who finished tied with Jimenez with six goals last fall and paced the Cougars with 14 points.
“I like our returning players,” Cisneros said. “I think they’ll help those younger guys moving up. It’s a good balance — the experience from last year and the new guys coming up.”
Weston Ranch will open the season versus Stagg at the Stagg Tournament on Friday. The non-conference schedule also includes tilts against Lincoln (Sept. 1) and Chavez (Sept. 4).
Valley Oak League play begins at home with Kimball on Sept. 17.
“I tell the guys we can only control what we do. As long as they give their best out there, whatever happens happens,” Cisneros said. “... I think it was easy for them on JV. This year it’s a huge jump, so it remains to be seen.
“But I know what we have. We have more talent. I just can’t wait to get to that first game.”