Traditional power St. Francis expected to rule the area this season
By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
High school coaches dream about these type of years.
Glen Appels has nearly every player from last season’s St. Francis High School boys soccer team returning. The Golden Knights have motivation in that they finished second in Mission League play and then were upset in the CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs last season.
Even nine months later, that 4-2 second-round playoff loss to Servite grates at the Knights.
“That’s all we thought about,” the dean of West San Gabriel Valley coaches said of the nine-month layoff. “Not to me, but the kids. It was a game we should have won. We dominated. But I think what we learned is that we made mistakes and we’ve really learned how to overcome them. We’ve improved because of them.
“I’m excited because we have all these seniors back.”
Eight starters return, including 2006-07 Star-News player of the year Nick Posthuma. Last season, Posthuma had 24 goals and 12 assists.
Joining the forward will be forward Nick Swart, who had 20 goals last season, and four key defenders, including Scott McGuinness and junior Nick Rihn.
“We had five or six sophomores two years ago and we were hoping that by the time they were seniors, they would have this experience,” said Appels, entering his 19th year as the St. Francis varsity coach.
“It’s going to be a big year. We have a couple of young guys, too, and we feel that if we put them with the seniors, it will be a good experience. I hope they recognize that this is a big drive for our seniors.”
Rihn’s 16-and-under club team won a national championship this summer, which Appels said he hopes the midfielder will use to ignite the team, too.
One newcomer will be junior Jordan Bell in goal.
“I hope the defense gets him time to acclimated,” Appels said.
The Knights lost twice to Loyola, 1-0, in league play last year. They finished 25-5 on the season.
“It’s not Loyola, it’s the whole league that is tough,” Appels said.
“We have to keep our eye on Loyola, but there are a lot of other really good teams. We just can’t look at Loyola. There are a lot of quality teams in our league.”
The Wildcats are ready to make a big step up.
They return 18 players and had successful scrimmages and summer tournaments, finishing no worse than second. Monrovia went 5-3-2 in the Rio Hondo League last season, finishing second to La Ca ada, and 10-7-5 overall, falling to Pasadena Poly, 2-1 in the first round of the CIF-SS Division III playoffs.
Coach Mike Williams expects that opponents will have trouble with the Wildcats’ offense this season.
“We play differently than most teams,” Williams said. “We move the ball well. We’re constantly passing. I went to Brazil where I learned it. I think a lot of teams will have trouble with us because they’re not used to the way we pass the ball. I think it is a big advantage.”
And having nearly every starter returning will have a big impact on the Wildcats’ offensive ability.
The Wildcats are loaded with three-year starters.
Forward Danny Rojas (13 goals last season), attacking midfielder Juan Ulloa, midfielder Emiliano Ibanez and midfielder Luis Rivera all have started for three years. Goalkeeper Hector Ramirez has been on the varsity team for four years, but had to play behind Mario Umanzor.
Williams, and others, are high on Ramirez.
“We played a 21-and-under English team this summer and they told him that if he is interested, to contact them after this season for a tryout,” Williams said. “He was stopping nearly everything they put on him.”
Two brothers are also on the team. Junior Eduardo Ulloa has been on the varsity team for three years and Mathias Ibanez joins his brother, Emiliano, on the team.
3. LA CANADA
Nothing less than a CIF-SS title might be on the Spartans’ agenda this season.
La Canada wasn’t expecting anything special last year. The Spartans were loaded with underclassmen. They started the season 2-5-2, but went 12-4 the rest of the way, winning the Rio Hondo League with an 8-2 record and reaching the CIF-SS Division V semifinals, losing to Salesian, 4-1. They finished the season 14-9-2.
“We didn’t have a year I expected,” coach Jordan Jones said. “It was a great year. I didn’t know what to expect and we had a great group of guys.”
Six returning starters are back.
“We have quite a few seniors and their expectations are quite high,” Jones said. “Hopefully, we can win league, but we’ll go from there.
“We’ll know how good we are very early. I think a lot of guys will use that experience of (last season’s) playoffs to get us going. They have a new-found confidence with that experience. They know what it is like when it comes to the key points. They know they can do this.”
The growing point has been forwards Kyle Campbell and junior Mark Thompson. They were put together last season, and early on, the Spartans struggled. But a season has changed all that, Jones said.
“They really complement each other,” he said. “They’re very good at working the ball together. They’ve become one unit. Kyle had a great year last year. We expect him to score in at least every game. He’s stronger and faster this year.”
Seniors Yusef Akbarut and Ravi Sahai and junior Garrett Gray will lead the midfield and senior John Borlund will anchor the defense.
Sophomore Ryan Upton is expected to make a mark in the starting lineup.
“We brought him up last year for CIF,” Jones said. “We’re going to try to slip him into the starting lineup.”
The Apaches have had one of the top girls programs in the Pacific League for several years. The boys program is beginning to get just as much notice.
Thirteen seniors return to a team that went 8-4-2 in league to finish second and reach the second round of the CIF-SS Division III playoffs, losing to La Habra, 2-1. Arcadia finished the year 12-7-5.
Forward Eric Guo will be the main player. He is a third-year starter, was named the league’s MVP last season and has already committed to play at Penn next season. Then there’s his counterpart, three-year starter Kyle Jacobsen, who has the knack of throwing inbound passes 40 yards, and scored twice last season on throw-ins.
“We have a great group of guys,” coach Jason Franz said. “Having all these guys back is a great help. I think we can play well together very quickly.”
Also returning is Kyle Martin, sophomore Dillon Short, who started as a freshman last season and was the place-kicker on the football team, and junior Matt Swanson, who is coming over from the cross country team.
“I think it is reasonable that if we get to 15 wins, we can win league,” Franz said. “I think this group can reach those goals.”
5. BOSCO TECH
Expectations aren’t quite as high in Rosemead this season.
But with a returning All-CIF forward and a solid returning goalkeeper, the Tigers can be quietly confident.
Dean Rowley, a junior, returns at forward and Mark Rios is back in goal for Bosco Tech, which reached the CIF-SS Division VI quarterfinals last year.
But there is a lot of newness to this season, including coach Saul Barrientos.
“This year, we expecting to do well in league, but beyond that, I cannot tell you,” said Barrientos, who played at Azusa Pacific and in the A-League, “We’re a young team.”
The Tigers won the Camino Real League and finished 18-5-1 last season. They lost to Viewpoint, 3-1, in the quarterfinals. Barrientos said he’s hoping that Rowley’s and Rios’ experience in the quarterfinals will make a difference.
“Those two have to be able to push the other kids and get them to train harder,” he said. “They need to show what is expected to get to that level.”
Barrientos is making one big move in the midfield: Putting freshman Aldo Flores on the field.
“He has very good vision,” he said. “We hope he’ll dominate our midfield for three, four years.”
The first-year coach admits that he had first, and second, thoughts about bringing Flores up to the team. He’s only 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds.
“I was concerned about the aggressiveness of other players,” he said.
“But after seeing him in a scrimmage, I saw he could play with the big boys. He has the skills and he’s all over the field.”