The men’s soccer team is looking to be a contender for the conference title this year following a heartbreaking end to last year’s season when the team missed the playoffs by one game.
The loss of an All-American and a few all-conference players has some fans worried, but the team does not seem to be deterred by the loss.
“Of course it is going to affect us,” men’s soccer head coach Cres Gonzalez said. “We lost an All-American and a few all-conference players, but we cannot look behind in the past. We have to look ahead and only get better from this.”
“It is a big loss, but we are more as a unit this year,” sophomore midfielder Fernando Almejo said. “It won’t affect us that much.”
Gonzalez is looking to his key returners to fill the void of the graduates.
He is excited for impact players like Almejo and Andrew Geenen.
With the talent of these returners, Gonzalez hopes that they will bring leadership to the new players entering the season.
As Gonzalez goes into his 10th season, he hopes his Leopards have the right combination of veterans and newcomers.
Players like Wesley Lucas, Hector Lepe and Boye Christiansen are going to be looked at to step and take on contributing roles.
Christiansen comes from Norway and is in his first year, but his teammates make him feel right at home.
“The team is very nice, very nice people on the team, and they are really good to the new guys,” Christiansen said.
Lucas, an economics major, is academically a senior, but has two more years of eligibility due to a torn ACL and meniscus his sophomore year.
This is Lucas’ first year back from surgery and will be expected to anchor the defense while the Leopards’ fast paced offensive looks to control the other side of the field.
This year’s team looks to put a lot of pressure on the ball and pick up the tempo.
“A new season is always exciting,” Gonzalez said.
“This year, we’re a little faster and more of a high pressure team.”
“We look a lot better this year,” Almejo said.
“We have a lot more team chemistry; we get along on and off the field. We’ve been more intense and more focused, it’s all about working as a team.”
The team has a great chance of making the playoffs if it takes this opportunity to step up and make plays according to Lucas.
“This season looks very promising,” Lucas said. “We have good, experienced returners who have played together before.”
The top four teams in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference make the playoffs, and a lot of the players can agree that it is one of their top goals for the season.
“Our first goal is to compete and battle and give ourselves an opportunity,” Gonzalez said. “Second, to get into the top four and at that point, anything can happen.”
Lucas believes if the team finishes all of their chances on the offensive side of the ball, the team has the potential to be No. 1 in the conference.
“We’re going to make it happen this year,” Almejo said.
La Verne currently holds a 1-1 record with a 2-0 win against the University of Dallas in the season opener followed by a 1-0 loss to University of Texas-Dallas.
The Leopards start SCIAC play against Whittier at 7 p.m. Sept. 14 at Damien High School.
Christian Orozco can be reached at email@example.com.