ALBUQUERQUE ACADEMY CHARGERS
Coach: Laney Kolek (8th year)
Last season: 15-5-3; lost to Alamogordo in 5A championship game
Key players: Aaron Hill, sr., D; Lucas Jepsen, sr., FW; Jackson Taylor, sr., MF; Curtis McNary, sr., D; Mateo Centenera, jr., FW.
Outlook: The Chargers have some extremely reliable players returning this year, led by Hill (a member of the All-State first team last year) and Jepsen, and Kolek wants her veteran seniors to pave the way in 2018. Another Schlenzig, Yannick, will take over for his brother Lucas between the pipes for the Academy. This year perhaps more than others recently, the Chargers may need several weeks to find their footing as they integrate new faces into the lineup.
ALBUQUERQUE HIGH BULLDOGS
Coach: Lucien Starzynski (15th year)
Last season: 19-1-1; Class 6A state champions
Key players: Jose Sevilla, sr., GK; Edgar Campos, sr., MF; Soren Mathis, sr., MF; Liam Heath-Kennedy, sr., D; Elias Reyes, sr., MF; Tristan Castillo, sr., FW.
Outlook: The Bulldogs are in excellent shape to repeat this season, with an experienced roster at Starzynski’s disposal. That’s not to say AHS doesn’t have a couple of key vacancies to fill, because it does. Campos will fill some of the scoring void for the Bulldogs, along with senior Tristan Castillo. But the offense will need to be sharp and very team oriented, without a truly dangerous individual goal-scoring threat. Having Sevilla, an excellent ‘keeper, is a definite plus. Heath-Kennedy was first-team All-State last season.
ATRISCO HERITAGE ACADEMY JAGUARS
Coach: Micah Newman (7th year)
Last season: 8-9-2; lost to Highland in 6A first round
Key players: Javier Rubio, sr., MF; Daniel Saenz, sr., FW; Alex Rios, sr., MF; Abraham Lozano, jr., D; Miguel Pedroza, jr., GK.
Outlook: The addition of the Jaguars into District 1-5A turns what was the state’s best district into a mega district. And Newman said the Jags will need to adjust their style a bit as they transition into that league.There is good depth at every level, Newman said, but this team has to find a way to be more offensive-minded and put the ball in the back of the net. Rubio and Saenz, and junior Kenny Rivera, all need to step up in that regard.
Coach: Jose Duran (3rd year)
Last season: 5-13-1
Key players: Geovanni Perez, sr., FW/MF; Ethan Trujillo, jr., D/MF; Joel Martinez, sr., MF.
Outlook: Though Duran expects 2018 to be a “reconfiguring” season, he remains optimistic with the direction of the program. The Eagles have spent the offseason working on team unity and commitment. After addressing certain off-the-field issues from 2017, the team has revamped their program both on and off the field. Position-wise, Duran expects to surprise a few teams and ultimately finish the season with a winning record.
Coach: Anthony Jaramillo (5th year)
Last season: 11-9; lost to Hatch Valley in 1A/4A first round
Key players: Alex Diaz, sr., MF; Santiago Delarde, sr., MF; Diego Garcia, sr., D; Kevin Silva, jr., MF; Steven Alvarado, sr., FW.
Outlook: Jaramillo said his starting 11 is solid and that his squad should be able to compete well in its new district. He’s also confident Bernalillo will make the state tournament again despite being in a stronger grouping. “We’re moving up to a combination of 4A/5A and now will be in with Hope, Albuquerque Academy, Highland, Valley and Del Norte, some of the bigger teams.” Alvarado will be among players be counted on to help fill the void on the attack left by Emiliano Leal, who had 30 goals last season.
BOSQUE SCHOOL BOBCATS
Coach: Jorge Vela (1st year)
Last season: 7-12-3; lost to Sandia Prep in 1A/4A quarterfinals
Key players: Isiah Lewis, jr., GK; Max Ramirez, jr., MF; Carsten Torgeson, jr., MF; Evan Fort, soph., MF/D; Isaac Wayne, sr., D/MF.
Outlook: Oddly enough, the Bobcats’ young group, particularly their crop of freshmen, are probably the most experienced players on this team, Vela said. How they fare against older, more physical athletes on other teams will be among the things that factor into Bosque’s success this season. This team should be stellar through the middle, even with some of that youth mixed in. There is only one senior (Wayne) on the roster expected to contribute heavily.
Coach: Daniel Martinez (1st year)
Last season: 5-11-2
Key players: Matthew Berlint, sr., FW; Dominic Sanchez, sr., MF; Nicholas Maldonado, sr., D; Ethan Sanchez, jr., MF; Brian Fox, jr., MF.
Outlook: Martinez took over not long ago after leaving Los Lunas High (after five seasons in Valencia County) to become the Cougars’ coach. So this may be a bit of a slow-starting group this season. “The soccer knowledge of this group has made it easier (to transition),” Martinez said. “They have the ability to pick things up and get on the same page.” Berlint is probably the top of Cibola’s returners, with a dozen goals last season.
Coach: Shaun Gill (10th year)
Last season: 12-5-4; lost to Rio Rancho in 6A quarterfinals
Key players: Gabriel Legendre, jr., FW; Jake Lent-Koop, sr.,D; Ryan Watson, sr., GK; Nate Otero, sr., D; Jairo Barreras, sr., FW; Nicholas Legendre, fresh., MF.
Outlook: Here is a team many believe to be one of the two or three best sides in the new Class 5A. It’s a dynamic group, to be sure, led by Gabriel Legendre and Lent-Koop, both of whom were first-team All-State selections last season, and Barreras, who trained last season with the Colorado Rapids Academy. There is size and depth on this roster, and an abundance of skill at every level. Plus this team has a good bit of experience, and an influx of younger players who will contribute.
DEL NORTE KNIGHTS
Coach: Clay Szenasi (2nd year)
Last season: 3-13-2
Key players: Gabriel Maldonado, jr., MF; Jared Long, sr., D; Atis Azimi, jr., MF; Samir Muhammad, sr., FW; Mahmod Alkwaz, sr., D.
Outlook: Szenasi believes his team became more disciplined and competitive as 2017 progressed. This year, in a more-balanced District 6-4A, Del Norte could be in position to make more tangible progress. “It’s been a long time since Del Norte even had aspirations to make state,” Szenasi said. “We’re better skill-wise and our chemistry is good. I think state is the goal.” The Knights must choose a new goalkeeper but they have solid leaders with Maldonado on offense and Alkwaz on defense.
EAST MOUNTAIN TIMBERWOLVES
Coach: Matt Painter (2nd year)
Last season: 10-10
Key players: Jose Perea, sr. FW/MF; Zane Randall, jr., GK; Kalob Makellar, jr., D; J.C. Nava, jr., FW/MF; Tyler Batie, jr., FW/MF; Ryan Lesperance, sr., MF/FW.
Outlook: With 15 new players, it’s hard to know for sure what to expect from the Timberwolves. Painter, who has also coached at Albuquerque Academy and played professionally in England, likes the potential of the newcomers, but acknowledges losing as many seniors as he did off of last year’s 10-10 squad will have challenges. A state tournament berth isn’t out of the question, but after starting last season 7-3 and struggling down the stretch, he knows getting his young squad to stay “healthy and motivated” are as vital as anything.
Coach: Tom Hirschman (5th year)
Last season: 10-6-2
Key players: Isai Carrillo, sr., FW/MF; Connor Starr, sr., FW/MF; Jakob Baca, sr., D; Zane Grillo, jr., D.
Outlook: Eldorado returns Carrillo and his 17 goals; he was a district player of the year in 2017 and also a first-team All-State selection. Starr also scored in double digits in goals for the Eagles. Although this roster has 14 seniors, few, Hirschman said, have varsity experience, so Eldorado perhaps has a bit of an uphill climb ahead of it this year.
Coach: Nick Madrid (1st year)
Last season: 12-7-1; lost to Albuquerque High in 6A quarterfinals
Key players: Kevin Nunez, jr., MF; Mateo Miranda, jr., MF; Jorge Becerra, sr, D; Claude Nsabimana, sr., FW; Bryan Lopez, sr., D.
Outlook: Madrid inherits a diverse and talented roster which could be poised to make a run at a state championship in the second-largest division. The Hornets have high expectations after reaching the quarterfinals last season and bring back a balanced team with experience and talented newcomers. Madrid said the goal for his team is to be the best in New Mexico.
HOPE CHRISTIAN HUSKIES
Coach: Steve Kokulis (7th year)
Last season: 21-2; Class 1A/4A state champions
Key players: Daniel Letourneau, sr., MF; Blake Montanes, sr., D/MF; Isaiah Trujillo, jr., MF.
Outlook: The Huskies are moving up a classification this year, and that’s bad timing, since Hope lost 16 players from last season’s tremendous campaign. Also, Hope won’t have a JV team this season because the school lacks the numbers. Letourneau is coming back from an ACL injury that caused him to miss all of last season. Identifying goal scorers is a primary concern for Kokulis.
LA CUEVA BEARS
Coach: Easy Jimenez (4th year)
Last season: 16-1-4; lost to Albuquerque High in 6A championship game
Key players: Jason Lyons, sr., D; Michael Kamieniecki, jr., D; Tyler Erickson, sr., D; Jake Eanes, sr., FW; James Zanios, jr., MF; Michel Cole, sr., MF.
Outlook: The Bears are always in the hunt for a blue trophy, and this season won’t be any different. Erickson, Eanes (first-team All-State in 2017) and Lyons are all outstanding individual talents, and each brings something different to the table: Eanes his scoring; Lyons a big body in the back; Erickson a strong defender and facilitator. Senior Forrest Gill-Ehlen replaces Anthony Muñoz in net for La Cueva, and Jimenez trusts him there.
LOS LUNAS TIGERS
Coach: Eric Chavez (1st year)
Last season: 11-10
Key players: Jordan Arballos, jr., MF/FW; Candelario Ruiz, sr., MF; Diego Sanchez, jr., FW/D.
Outlook: Chavez became head coach earlier this month. From what he has seen, he hasn’t been disappointed. He’s been impressed with the team’s work ethic, especially considering the change of system they’ve had to deal with. Offense will be a source of strength for the Tigers. With Arballos and Sanchez, the Tigers will likely put up a few high-scoring shootouts. However, Chavez said his defense will either make or break the team.
Coach: Jerry Duran (4th year)
Last season: 4-13-1
Key players: James Sandoval, sr., D; Toby McCoy, sr., GK; Kevin Padilla, jr., MF; Jacob Duran, jr., MF; Jacob McKeever, jr., D.
Outlook: Duran believes there is a base for building progress, not just as a team but as an overall program, and he likes his mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen. The Monarchs figure to get more offensive opportunities this season, and attention needs to be refocused on the defensive half.
Coach: Jordan Allcorn (8th year)
Last season: 14-7-1; lost to Hope Christian in 1A/4A semifinals
Key players: Frank McCleave, jr., MF; Luke Lionbarger, jr., MF; Seth Holmes-Thompson, sr., D; Jahlani Graham, sr., FW; CJ Trammell, sr., GK.
Outlook: The Pintos have just three seniors on their roster but have experience in key places with goalkeeper Trammell, forward Graham and MF Akash Patel. Moriarty made a strong postseason run in 2017 and Allcorn has high expectations in a revamped District 2-4A that includes Los Alamos, Pojoaque Valley and Taos. “It’s a new challenge for us,” Allcorn said, “but we’re planning to compete strongly for a district championship.”
OAK GROVE CLASSICAL ACADEMY OWLS
Coach: Miles Shiver (1st year)
Last season: JV only
Key players: Cale Pilgreen, jr., D; Cole Ray, fresh., MF; Sagan Cox, fresh., D; Ben Adkins, fresh., FW; Connor Pilgreen, fresh., D.
Outlook: The metro’s newest program begins its first varsity season with no seniors and no home field, but the Owls do have some talented young players on this roster who have club experience and who will help get this program started. Program’s varsity opener was Saturday against Silver. There are also several players from Evangel Christian on this team as they co-op.
RIO GRANDE RAVENS
Coach: Oscar Calderon (2nd year)
Last season: 4-12-2
Key players: None given
Outlook: The Ravens will be a bit inexperienced this season as they lost 11 seniors to graduation. But Calderon is hoping the youth, including 10 freshmen, will inject energy into his squad. Last year’s team was competitive and set a new standard. The Ravens earned their first win against Atrisco Heritage at a home game. Junior defender Mynor Ortiz is out with a hamstring injury and will not return until he is cleared to play.
RIO RANCHO RAMS
Coach: John Shepard (17th year)
Last season: 16-5-2; lost to Albuquerque High in 6A semifinals
Key players: Payton Sandoval, sr., MF; David Hite, jr., FW; Camden Ek, sr., D; Michael Varangis, sr., D; Lamar Bynum, soph., MF; Israel Aguilar, jr., MF.
Outlook: The Rams had significant turnover in the offseason, which means Shepard will lean on his veteran players to help carry the day with a handful of new faces. Sandoval was a first-team all-district selection last year and led Rio Rancho in scoring. And the Rams are high on goalkeeper Bryson Baker, of whom his team will ask much, especially in super competitive District 1-6A.
Coach: Ryan Sanchez (2nd year)
Last season: 9-9
Key players: Abe Ramirez, sr., MF; Ethan Maxwell, jr., D; Robin Fernandez, sr., GK.
Outlook: The young but talented Matadors will give up one tough district for another as they shift into a league that includes defending 6A state champion Albuquerque High this year. Fernandez and Maxwell will control things from the back, while Sandia will run much through Ramirez, who is equally adept at shooting or passing. This team lacked scoring firepower last year, something Sanchez hopes to get corrected this season.
SANDIA PREP SUNDEVILS
Coach: Tommy Smith (21st year)
Last season: 12-8-3; lost to Hope Christian in 1A/4A championship game
Key players: Brian Altavas, sr., FW/MF; Lucas Sandoval, sr., FW; Shamus O’Leary, sr., MF; Atlee Gaddis, sr., GK.
Outlook: Perhaps the best thing the Sundevils have going for them are the players who had a taste of the state finals last November and who are itching to get back to that stage again later this year. Sandoval and Altavas both surged toward the end of last season, so they’ll be out front with this group. It is a team without a true superstar player, but as with so many of Smith’s teams, Sandia Prep should prove to be a cohesive, sharp side.
ST. PIUS SARTANS
Coach: A.J. Herrera (4th year)
Last season: 13-4-4; lost to Farmington in 5A quarterfinals
Key players: None given
Outlook: This is a senior-heavy team that should play very deep into the season. Herrera inherited this team when they were ninth graders, and some of them were playing varsity even then. So this will be an experienced and dangerous group. Six starters return for the Sartans.
Coach: Eric Gutierrez (8th year)
Last season: 9-11-1
Key players: Elijah Marez, sr.; Rodolfo Rodriguez, sr.; Daniel Cabriales, sr.
Outlook: Gutierrez has seen a few good squads since becoming Valencia’s head coach seven years ago. However, with 10 seniors graduating in 2017, Gutierrez expects 2018 to be rougher than in past seasons. The Jaguars will return three seniors, and those seniors are expected to carry most of the team’s weight. The seniors are proven leaders and reliable athletes. However, from there, it drops. Gutierrez still expects to make the playoffs.
Coach: Orlando Ramirez (2nd year)
Last season: 8-10
Key players: Johnny Baros, sr., Striker; Josh Baros, soph., MF; David Chavarria, sr., MF; Cole McLaren, jr., D; Axel Esparza, jr., MF.
Outlook: The older Baros is, arguably, the most electrifying scorer in Class 5A. But Ramirez said Johnny’s brother, Josh, is a beast and will be very attractive to college recruiters. Newcomer Alex Newby, an attacking center-mid, adds another exciting element for the Vikings. “We’ll turn some heads for sure,” Ramirez said. Mentally, the coach said, this team is much tougher than last year’s group.
VOLCANO VISTA HAWKS
Coach: Billy Thiebaut (11th year)
Last season: 11-8; lost to Gadsden in 6A first round
Key players: Isai Rivas, sr., FW/MF; Skylor Rose, sr., FW/MF; Julian Ortega, sr., MF; Xander Sorenson, sr., D/MF.
Outlook: This is another of those teams on the very short list of prime state championship contenders. This team has several extremely dynamic talents, including Rivas and Rose. Although the Hawks will be young in goal, Thiebaut has two good options — freshman Evan Kowalski or sophomore Ezekiel Sorenson — there when the time comes. Can Volcano Vista’s leadership unify the team? That is Thiebaut’s most pressing question to get answered.
WEST MESA MUSTANGS
Coach: Jorge Serrano (5th year)
Last season: 6-10-2
Key players: Agustin Paulino, sr., D; Abraham Munoz, sr., D; Juan Pablo Heras, sr., D/MF; Devan Lootens, sr., MF; Mathew Tafoya, jr., D/MF.
Outlook: Serrano said more Mustangs are playing year-round soccer than before, and he believes that will have an impact on the upcoming season. There is experience to be found here, with eight returning starters, and West Mesa hopes to use its creativity to make inroads. West Mesa moving into District 1-5A, which is absolutely loaded with the likes of Cleveland, Volcano Vista and Rio Rancho.
— Compiled by James Yodice, Ken Sickenger, Randy Harrison, Steve Virgen, Geoff Grammer, Kevin Hendricks, Bob Christ and Dustin Copeland