Boys’ soccer struggles during early season

December 12, 2018 — by Jun Lee and Oliver Ye

After a successful season last year capped off with a CCS semifinals appearance, the Falcons moved up a division to the tougher De Anza League. As of Dec. 11,  they were struggling with the early part of their preseason schedule, going winless after their first four games.

In preseason games against Leigh on Nov. 28, they lost 7-0. Against Lynbrook on Dec. 3, they fell 6-1.  Harker beat them 4-0 on Dec. 5, and Independence won 4-1 on Dec. 10.

After winning their division last year, in addition to their deep CCS run, the team lost 18 seniors to graduation including most of their starters in the midfield and front-line, as well as their star goalkeeper Neil Rao. Freshman Mason Manzagol has replaced Rao in the net.

Including Manzagol, the team is now comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores, with the vast majority of their players entering their first year of varsity competition. Because of this, not only do the Falcons lack the experience to compete at the varsity level immediately, but they also lack the size to battle against bigger teams.

“Our team is smaller, doesn’t have as many older players, and isn’t as experienced, which is why we’ve been struggling,” senior captain and leading goal scorer Owen Keogh said.

Because of the vastly different makeup of the team this year, coach Chris Stott has had to adjust the training regimen and practice routines of the team.

“The coach decided to do the same drills this year even though it might be tough because there are a lot of underclassmen,” Keogh said. ”The sophomores and freshmen had to adapt to the higher playing speed and physicality of varsity games.”

Part of the team’s transition to helping young players mature on the field is the addition of weightlifting to their training. The team is working out on even days to get stronger and faster to become more competitive with bigger, more athletic teams in the league.

“We are starting to do lifting sessions now, and it’s really going to help us because the only thing we are really lacking to compete right now is team bonding and strength,” junior right wing Nolan Chen said.

Another contributing factor to the lack of success the boys have had is a lack of practice time because of the November fire in Paradise. The team wasn’t able to start their practice until just about two days before their first preseason game as a result of the bad air quality.

“A lot of training got cancelled, and this lack of practicing really showed in our first couple games,” Chen said.

However, the team is seeing signs of improvement as they play preseason games.

“We didn’t have the time to get to know each other or even practice together once as a team. But I think every game we get better in all aspects,” Keogh said.

The boys’ goal this season’ is to remain in the De Anza League. Upperclassmen believe that the team has a lot of potential to improve throughout the season.

“Because we have a much younger team, we have a lot of room for improvement, and we will be able to develop players and keep a core group for years to come,” Keogh said.

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