Preview: Boys soccer

Posted 8/25/09

Scott Kaniewski The high school soccer teams from the Continental and Centennial leagues are only getting better. Teams like Arapahoe, Heritage and …

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Preview: Boys soccer

Posted

Scott Kaniewski

The high school soccer teams from the Continental and Centennial leagues are only getting better.

Teams like Arapahoe, Heritage and Ponderosa continue to nurse pinnacle years for their respective programs, while Castle View and others are on the rise, and Rock Canyon returns to defend its Class 4A state championship title.

Arapahoe

Last season’s fourth-seeded playoff team and Centennial League champion was knocked out in the second round in an upset by No. 20 Bear Creek. The defending league champions will try to rectify that early-round elimination this season.

“Last year was a huge disappointment,” Arapahoe coach Mark Hampshire said. “Our returning players have that in their mind.”

The Warriors return six or seven starters from last season, Hampshire said. Seniors Spencer Rogel [central defense], Zach Mayo [right defender] and Jack Layman [midfielder] will lead the way. Junior Shay Niemeyer returns in goal for the Warriors.

“We’ll be pretty strong right through the middle,” Hampshire said.

Arapahoe also gets back a healthy Adam Tormoehlen. The senior already is committed to play for Butler University after he graduates.

“The last couple years we’ve been knocked out in the first couple rounds,” Hampshire said. “We need to focus on figuring that out. If we do, this team has a very good shot.”

Castle View

Last season, in its first varsity campaign, Castle View reached the Class 4A state playoffs. Despite a No. 22 seed, the Sabercats knocked off No. 11 Summit but lost to eventual state runner-up Niwot.

The Sabercats return seven starters, including all four defensive backs. Junior sweeper Hector Porragas will continue as the team’s free kick specialist. Juniors Parker Smith [forward/midfield] and Caleb Runk [forward] are expected to carry the scoring load. Castle View finished in fourth place in the Colorado Springs Metro League last season but is hoping to climb in the league ranks.

“We’re looking to take over that third spot, if not knock off Lewis-Palmer or Cheyenne Mountain,” said coach Eddie Williams. “We’re really confident. We know we can play with those teams, and we’re just adding a few things to make up that gap.”

Chaparral

The Wolverines are looking to get back to the postseason after a year’s hiatus. They’ll have plenty of experience to get them there. The Wolverines return nine starters and 17 varsity players from last season’s squad.

“We have a chance to be pretty good,” said coach Jim Hall.

Among those coming back are four-year starter Dom Rayas, three-year starter Sam Perez and three-year junior starter Ben Smith. Rayas will switch from midfield to striker and Smith moves from the backline to the midfield. Perez will remain at forward.

“He’s one of the most talented attacking players in the league,” Hall said.

Garrett Wise, a junior transfer from Southern California, will start in goal.

“We didn’t have the difference maker other teams had,” Hall said of last season. “Hopefully these guys will become those difference makers that will pull off matches for us.”

Cherry Creek

Last season, the Bruins were upset in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs. That sting has left the Bruins craving a deep run.

“I think the strength is that we’re going to be hungry,” said coach Chelo Curi. “We didn’t go very far last year. We lost in the first round, and I think everybody’s got a little chip on their shoulder.”

The Bruins return five starters and plenty of experience. Back is one of the top players in the state in midfielder Robbie Derschang, who has committed to Southern Methodist University. In net will be junior Matt Kagie, who saw time at forward last season while backing up Matt Aguirre in goal.

“You couldn’t tell [Kagie] was a goalie,” Curi said. “You’d think he was just another field payer.”

The Bruins bring back three sophomores who started or saw significant playing time as freshmen. Among them is Jake Dudley–Gilchrist, an outside midfielder.

Curi is expecting big things from his team.

“We have a lot of young guys competing for starting spots,” Curi said. “It’s one of the best team chemistry I’ve had in at least five years.”

Douglas County

With five to six starters returning, the Huskies are going to be a young team trying to climb into the playoff picture. Coach Chad Allen expects five or six seniors to be on the team, including starting defender Kevin Berning. For the Huskies to have a successful season, much of the pressure will fall on the shoulders of junior Dustin Berg.

“He’s arguably one of the best players in his age group in the state,” Allen said. “He’ll finish as one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”

The central midfielder will have to help run the offense. And the Huskies will have more youth behind Berg. Sophomore Jeremy Baldyga is expected to start and anchor the defense after starting as a freshman last season.

“I see us right around where we were last year,” Allen said. “We lost on the last day of season to miss out on playoffs. I do think we’re making some strides.”

Englewood

Englewood’s team was 5-10 last season but, since just about all the 2008 starters were sophomores and 10 of them return this season, the Pirates are looking for a much better record.

Jesse Thomas, the team’s leading scorer last season with 15 goals, returns at striker and should be a serious scoring threat again this year. However, coach Bill Gilmore said defense, led by returning goalie Justin Fliedner, should be a team strong point.

“We are still young but with 10 returning lettermen, we are going to be a better team,” the coach said. “We didn’t have enough kids for a JV team last year but we have a good turnout and will have JVs this season.”

He said the league will be tough as usual with Wheat Ridge, D’Evelyn and Golden probably the top three title contenders but he expects Englewood to be in the battle to finish fourth, fifth or sixth in order to earn a state playoff berth.

Heritage

With three returning all-Continental Conference first-team players, Heritage High has high hopes yet again.

Midfielder and four-year starter Travis Sytsma, goalie Justin Tomasetti and striker Dan Goold anchor a team with eight returning varsity players. Goold will miss the first seven games while serving a suspension. But with so much experience returning, last year’s league runners-up should be fine until last season’s leading goal-scorer returns.

The Eagles were eliminated in the second round of last season’s playoffs, despite earning a No. 5 seed.

“We’re a good team,” coach Tony Hurt said. “We don’t have a key go-to guy, were well-rounded.”

Highlands Ranch

With seven returning players, the Falcons will look to work from the backline forward.

Three of their starting four defenders return to the field this season.

Three-year starters Alex Kindle [senior] and Michael O’Neal [junior] will be relied on heavily to help Highlands Ranch get into the playoff mix.

“It really depends on the youth becoming more mature and bigger and stronger,” said coach Danny Main.

The Falcons expect to have about seven returning players.

“I’m hoping that we can compete and be in the middle of the pack,” Main said. “If we’re in the middle of the pack then we’re in the playoff race.”

Legend

The Titans are set for their second varsity season, this time with freshmen and sophomores. Playing in the Pioneer League, the Titans will be competing for a playoff spot, playing their first true varsity schedule, said coach Danny Winsor.

“With this team, I think, being in our second year and getting up against a higher level of competition, we hope to compete and hope to have a chance to compete in every single game,” Winsor said.

A pair of sophomores will lead the way for the Titans, who return nearly a full squad. League most valuable player runner-up Avery Carlson is expected to control things in the midfield. Nick van Kooten will be in the center of the backline.

“For us to have success, we’ll have to be a quality, defensive team that transitions out,” Winsor said. “We had an opportunity to win league last year with freshmen. The chance to go after a league title is great.”

Littleton

Littleton squeaked into a playoff berth for last season’s Class 5A state playoffs. The No. 30 seed didn’t help the Lions, pitting them against third-seeded Poudre, which went on to reach the semifinals. But getting into the playoffs was good experience for this season’s team. And this year a new coach will try to get the Lions back to postseason contention. Longtime assistant Predrag Vajzovic takes over. But Vajzovic is far from new to coaching. The Lions junior varsity coach takes over a team of players he was worked with the past couple seasons.

“We’ve got six returning [varsity] players from last year,” Vajzovic said. “It’s going to be a completely new team. I know all of these guys. We’ve got a good core of retuning players. New players will fit very well.”

Returning for the Lions will be captains Kevin Sennely [center defender] and Andrew Korff [center midfield]. Outside midfielder Mario Cortez also is expected to play a key role.

“I think we’re going to be competitive,” Vajzovic said.

Lutheran-Parker

Lutheran-Parker struggled last season. The team is hoping to turn things around quickly and is starting from the top. The Lions bring in longtime Lewis-Palmer High School head coach Kurt Clark, who had the Rangers in the final four of the Class 4A playoffs last season.

Clark has identified a few players that he’ll rely on to help lead the Lions. Senior David Smith will control the center of the field, while fellow classmate Andrew Kubowicz will anchor the defense as a sweeper or center back. Senior Masih Moghaedam will lead the Lions’ attack. Junior Patrick Sanchez returns in goal.

“I think the strength is going to have to come from a total team effort,” Clark said. “After coming off a 4-10-1 season and a new coach, and new system of play, there’s a lot of changes in the program. The work ethic of these boys is some of the best I've ever seen.”

Mountain Vista

The Golden Eagles earned a berth in last year’s state playoffs but were knocked out in the first round, falling to seventh-ranked Boulder High. Mountain Vista returns a number of players, many of whom could be around yet another year, entering this season as juniors. Several coaches around the Continental League pointed to the Golden Eagles as one of the favorites to compete for a league title.

Ponderosa

Last year’s 14th seed in the playoffs comes into this season with high expectations. The Mustangs are routinely mentioned by other coaches as one of the competitors for a Continental League crown. And with good reason. Two seasons ago the team won the junior varsity league title. Most of those players were sophomores then. Two years later the 18-man team has 13 seniors and nine returning starters.

Anchoring the team will be seniors Johnny Kain [goalie], forward Matt Culver, defender Colin Skowronski and center midfielder Michael Streight.

“Our goal, honestly we just talked about it in practice, is to win league,” said coach Jim Engels. “And it’s not going to be easy with Heritage and Rangeview in it. Our second goal is to at least make a minimum of the quarterfinals.”

Rock Canyon

The defending Class 4A state champions graduated 11 players from their title team. But not all of them were starters. The Jaguars return at least six starting players, including three of four starting defenders and goalie Jacob Lissek, who split time as a starter.

Gustavo “Goose” Hidalgo, voted most valuable player of the state championship game, returns at center midfield. Cole Christensen, Alex Davis and Alex Mierau will lead the way on the backline. A change to playoff qualifying requires the Jaguars to finish in the top six in the Continental Conference.

“I don’t think there’s pressure,” said coach Sean Henning. “There is the sense that we’re defending champions and have a big bull’s eye on our back. It’s going to be a tough role.”

ThunderRidge

First-year coach Chris Smith takes over the Grizzlies this season, and so far, he likes what he sees.

“We’re pretty solid, pretty enthused about what we’ve got,” Smith said. “We’ve got a lot of talent.”

Between six and eight starters will return for the Grizzlies. Seniors Harrison Proffitt [center midfield], Ben Larkin [striker] and Skyler Young [outside midfield] will lead the way. Proffitt will direct traffic in the midfield, while Larkin and Young, both left-footed, will aid in the attack. Junior defenders Derek Hart and Colin Miarau return on the backline.

“I think after having a 0-15 year, with the talent we have, if it all comes together they can push to find themselves in the top third or top quarter of the Continental League,” Smith said.

Valor Christian

In Valor Christian’s first varsity boys soccer season, the team went out and won the Pioneer League. This year, the team is expecting more. The Eagles return all 11 starters. And this season the team is playoff-eligible, first-year coach Brian Schultz said.

Schultz said he expects the midfield to be the Eagles’ strength. Led by seniors Riley Wildermuth, Matt Misegadis and Jay White, the Eagles want to control the midfield. Junior Jack Adams is expected to anchor the defense.

“I’m excited to see what we can do this year,” Schultz said. “The Pioneer League has a lot of new schools in it.

“We think we can win a state championship. We’re pursuing that. Our first goal is to make it there.”

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