Coming off of a 4-15 record last year, the men’s soccer team is looking for a fresh start this season.
Many players and fans from last year knew that the team’s defense was the achilles heel that led to their poor record. But the team hopes that will change with the return of all-SCIAC players Taylor Hart and Angel De Alba, two defenders who were unable to play last season.
“Angel and Taylor are two of our best defenders, and having them back will make a huge difference this season,” said sophomore goalie Jonathyn Lomeli. “Our defense was a huge problem last season, but it won’t be now.”
Another advantage for the Leopards this season will be the addition of depth to the team roster.
With players coming back that were unable to play last season and the addition of a talented freshman class, the team will be able to rotate many players into the games and keep them fresh.
As head coach Cres Gonzalez goes into his ninth season, he hopes his Leopards have the right combination of veterans and newcomers.
“The team now has a lot of depth and a strong bench which we didn’t have last year,” said former player Jonathan Elias. “Also, the team has had a chance to bond and become a stronger unit.”
Elias feels that teams in the past did not get a chance to bond and come together.
He feels as though this will make a huge difference for the Leopards this season and will improve the team’s record.
This year’s team is very young with seven freshman and nine sophomores. Leading the charge for the talented freshman class is midfielder Fernando Almejo who is stepping in and starting for the team. The squad focuses on conditioning to play to a style of play which features constant ball movement and Almejo plays a big role in that.
“Fernando is doing a great job for the team. It’s huge to be able to have a freshman come in and play at the level he’s playing on,” Lomeli said.
With the addition of all the talent on the team, the leopards feel like they are now on the same level as teams in their division.
“We are now equal with, if not better than the teams we’re playing against,” said Lomeli.
“I’m excited to see how they perform this year,” said Albert Trujillo, long time fan. “I’ve been to their scrimmages and they looked really good, this is a strong group of guys.”
La Verne has finished in the upper echelon of the SCIAC two of the past three seasons and plans on returning to their ways this season.
The team has had a difficult pre-season schedule, playing some of the top teams in the area and their current record is 0-2-1.
Conference play will kick off against Redlands at 4 p.m. on Sept. 15, in La Verne on Ben Hines Field.
Justin Davis-Battle can be reached at email@example.com.