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Prep soccer 2019: Capsule previews for metro-area boys teams

ALBUQUERQUE ACADEMY CHARGERS

Coach: Laney Kolek (9th year)

Last season: 18-4-1; Class 4A state champions

Key players: Rowe Wilson-Scott, sr., D; Oliver Kumar, soph., FW; Neven Zapatka, soph., MF/FW; Chance Harvey, jr., D; Mateo Centenera, sr., MF/FW; Nate Patton, soph., MF.

Outlook: The Chargers lost 11 seniors off that title team, although the Chargers are still widely expected to be a force in Class 4A, as usual. One of the key things for Kolek is having the new faces in the lineup learn how to play at a faster speed and endure more physicality on the pitch. That may take some time, she said, but it’s a group that rival coaches fully expect to be a major threat.

ALBUQUERQUE HIGH BULLDOGS

Coach: Lucien Starzynski (15th year)

Last season: 15-3-1; lost to Clovis in 5A quarterfinals

Key players: Dennis Villanueva, sr., MF; Alejandro Nevarez, sr., MF; Alberto Rodriguez, sr., MF; Josiah Henderson, sr., FW; Sam Allred, sr., D; Nick Griego, sr., D.

Outlook: The Bulldogs, as well as any school in 5A, do a great job of reloading from season to season, and AHS is going to be one of New Mexico’s best teams once again. There is depth throughout the program at each grade, and underclassmen will figure prominently into the Bulldogs’ success in 2019. One thing that’s different: AHS, which always seems to have great netminders, will be new at that position.

ATRISCO HERITAGE ACADEMY JAGUARS

Coach: Micah Newman (8th year)

Last season: 13-7; lost to Cleveland in 5A quarterfinals

Key players: Miguel Pedroza, sr., GK; Eric Morales, sr., MF; Kenny Rivera, sr., MF; Abraham Lozano, sr., D; David Chavez, sr., D; Evarardo Loera, jr., MF.

Outlook: Quite a few prominent coaches in the metro area are very high on Newman’s Jaguars this season, and so is Newman. This is perhaps the deepest team Newman has had at Atrisco Heritage, and with Pedroza, he’s got a veteran and reliable goalkeeper. Rivera was surging as an offensive threat late last season, and the Jags expect that to continue this season. Definitely a team that can win a couple of playoff games.

BELEN EAGLES

Coach: Jose Duran (4th year)

Last season: 6-12-1

Key players: Ethan Trujillo, sr., D; Peter Duran, soph., MF; James Gabaldon, sr., GK; Oscar Perez, sr., MF.

Outlook: The Eagles are looking to bounce back from a tough season, and Duran thinks this group is capable of making a run at a state title. The strength of the side will be in the midfield with Duran and Perez, who will be the centerpieces for the short passing style the team plays. With more consistency, Belen hoping to challenge St. Pius and Los Lunas in district.

BERNALILLO SPARTANS

Coach: Anthony Jaramillo (6th year)

Last season: 1-15-1

Key players: Kevin Silva, sr., MF; Pablo Ponce, sr., FW; Alfonso Leal, sr., FW/MF; Ruben Gutierrez, jr., GK.

Outlook: Jaramillo believes the Spartans can improve greatly from last season, especially if Silva is able to get the ball to either of the forwards, Ponce and Leal, during counterattacks. Silva’s leadership will be important for a team that is very young with only three seniors.

BOSQUE SCHOOL BOBCATS

Coach: Jorge Vela (2nd year)

Last season: 13-9; lost to Robertson in 1A-3A quarterfinals

Key players: Isaiah Lewis, sr., GK; Max Ramirez, sr., MF; Carsten Torgeson, sr., MF; Evan Forte, Jr., FW; Cristian Fontana, soph., FW; Paolo Vela, soph., MF.

Outlook: The Bobcats already are off to a 3-0 start, have 10 starters back, and should be a factor throughout this season. There are some gifted sophomores on this roster, including scorers Vela and Fontana, who were both All-State last year. Those two and Forte give Bosque several outstanding offensive options. With an extra year’s maturity, Bosque hopes to challenge, or even take down, rival Sandia Prep in its district.

CIBOLA COUGARS

Coach: Daniel Martinez (2nd year)

Last season: 3-14-1

Key players: Ethan Sanchez, sr., MF; Jacob Borneo, sr., MF; Harry Maldonado, soph., MF; Brenden Drager, jr., D.

Outlook: A young group took its lumps last season, but the Cougars should be steadier and more consistent and competitive this year with a deeper senior class and nine returning lettermen. Still, there are some freshmen and sophomores who will get playing time and who will be expected to contribute. This team needs to be tougher in the second halves of matches, Martinez said.

CLEVELAND STORM

Coach: Shaun Gill (11th year)

Last season: 20-3; Class 5A state champions

Key players: Gabriel Legendre, sr., FW; Nicholas Legendre, soph., MF/FW; Noah Salgado, sr., D; Luke Beachler, sr., MF; Kevin Vidana, jr., C-MF; Alex Linn, jr., D.

Outlook: Led by the Legendre brothers — Gabriel is arguably New Mexico’s most elite player — the Storm feel like it will put together a strong title defense. Andreas Chacon McGee is the new starting goalkeeper, and his progression will be something to watch during the season. There are some juniors besides McGee who have to fill in, but Cleveland appears to be one of 5A’s strongest sides.

DEL NORTE KNIGHTS

Coach: Clay Szenasi (3rd year)

Last season: 7-11

Key players: Gabe Maldonado, sr., FW; Irving Diaz, jr., MF; Nathaniel Martinez, sr., MF; Elijah Orona, sr., MF.

Outlook: The Knights were competitive in a challenging District 6-4A last season. They’ll look to take the next step in Szenasi’s rebuilding process with nine returning varsity players, including six starters. “We are looking to have a winning record and to make state for the first time in quite a long time,” Szenasi said.

ELDORADO EAGLES

Coach: Tom Hirschman (6th year)

Last season: 9-9

Key players: Gavin Smith, sr., D; Zane Grillo, sr., D; Harrison Schmidt, sr., D; Mason Blatner, Jr., GK.

Outlook: The Eagles were absent from the postseason last November, but six starters are back to try and get that rectified. This should be a more veteran, cohesive team, although there will be enough young faces as well. The back line looks to be quite strong with Smith, Grillo and Schmidt, but Eldorado is still in search of someone who can finish and become a goal scorer at the other end.

HIGHLAND HORNETS

Coach: Nick Madrid (2nd year)

Last season: 8-9-2; lost to Taos in 4A first round

Key players: Kevin Nuñez, sr., MF; Marcos Otero, sr., D; Osman Orta, sr., GK; Juan de Luna, sr., D; Luis Rodriguez, jr., MF.

Outlook: Highland has a unique mix of senior leadership combined with quality new players. These Hornets are a close-knit and diverse bunch. The language barriers will present challenges, but Madrid knows how to navigate them. Madrid’s expectation is to reach the postseason again, and go further than last season. Returning all-district players — Nunez, Otero, Rodriguez, and Orta — will be instrumental for Highland.

HOPE CHRISTIAN HUSKIES

Coach: Steve Kokulis (8th year)

Last season: 13-7-1; lost to Aztec in 4A first round

Key players: Liam Hatter, sr., GK; Ky Martinez, sr., MF; Preston Sciarrillo, sr., MF; Aeden Baird, sr., FW; Tony Burgarello, jr., MF; Joseph Friederich, jr., MF.

Outlook: With eight starters back, the Huskies certainly are one of the teams to watch in Class 4A this fall. There is a good mix of veterans and young talent, according to Kokulis, and some promising freshmen who will step in right away. Identifying goal scorers is a priority; Martinez could become the top threat up top for Hope Christian, but others will have to join in. With only 22 players in the program, staying healthy is a must.

LA CUEVA BEARS

Coach: Easy Jimenez (6th year)

Last season: 16-3; lost to Mayfield in 5A quarterfinals

Key players: Mikah Madrid, soph., MF; Keane Garcia, jr., MF; Roland Zhang, sr., MF; Christian Cardenas, sr., FW; Evan Moedl, jr., GK; James Zanios, sr., MF.

Outlook: When his Bears beat the La Cueva alumni a few days ago, that convinced Jimenez that La Cueva was going to be as potent as ever. It is a young but quick group, and some injured players will be rejoining the team at some point during the metro tournament. There are, Jimenez said, no superstars on his roster, just plenty of quality depth, and the Bears should be part of the conversation into the playoffs in November.

LOS LUNAS TIGERS

Coach: Eric Chavez (2nd year)

Last season: 14-8; lost to Los Alamos in 4A semifinals

Key players: Jordan Arballo, sr., FW; Rueben Muñoz, sr., MF; Bryan Tarango, sr., MF; Efrain Perez, soph., D/MF/GK.

Outlook: The Tigers return nine starters and 14 players overall, highlighted by Arballo who will captain the side and kicked off his senior campaign with two goals and an assist in the first game of the season against Alamogordo. Chavez said this group has championship aspirations and a belief that they should be in a similar situation again.

MANZANO MONARCHS

Coach: Miguel Balderas (1st year)

Last season: 2-15-1

Key players: Jacob Duran, sr., D; Santiago Dinsmore, sr., GK; Daniel Topa, jr., MF; Eduardo Saucedo, jr., MF; Juan Saucedo, jr., MF.

Outlook: While this is Balderas’ first season as a head coach in New Mexico, he was a head coach in California in the past. He says his squad is “redirecting” this season while implementing a new system he says will lead to a “high energy, competitive team.”

MORIARTY PINTOS

Coach: Jordan Allcorn (10th year)

Last season: 9-11

Key players: Frank McCleave, sr., FW; Jordan Horoschak, sr., FW; Pavel Arguello, sr., MF; Luke Lionbarger, sr., MF; Micah Olson, jr., D.

Outlook: With most of the starting lineup returning, Allcorn is feeling optimistic about the Pintos’ chances of getting to the postseason this year. Moriarty will be young in goal, but that shouldn’t be an issue, the coach said. This is a team that is very much improved from last season, as some of the inexperienced players of last season have matured.

OAK GROVE CLASSICAL ACADEMY OWLS

Coach: Miles Shiver (2nd year)

Last season: 0-16

Key players: Cale Pilgreen, sr., C; Ben Sowers, soph., MF; Carlos Fuentes, sr., MF; Hannah Giardetti, soph., MF.

Outlook: This year’s team is co-ed (Giardetti is among the female players) and a co-op with Menaul, which is coming under the Oak Grove Classical banner. One of the Menaul contributors, Fuentes, at 6-foot-6, is a lanky strider from Spain who is expereienced and should make a big impact. Building chemistry between kids coming from the two schools is Shiver’s objective and challenge. The entire home schedule for the second-season program will be played on campus at Hoffmantown Church in the Northeast Heights.

RIO GRANDE RAVENS

Coach: Oscar Calderon (3rd year)

Last season: 6-10-2

Key players: Jairo Trejo, sr., D; Anibal Guerrero, jr., FW; Jason Lopez, jr., D; Adrian Arola, soph., MF; Joel Hernandez, soph., MF; Jesus Mendoza, soph., MF.

Outlook: No less an authority than La Cueva coach Easy Jimenez describes the Ravens as a sleeper team in Class 5A, what with the talented young players at Rio Grande. Trejo is one of the featured players on this team, a rock on the back line. This is still a relatively young team, but keep in mind: this group played both Albuquerque Academy and La Cueva very close last season.

RIO RANCHO RAMS

Coach: John Shepard (18th year)

Last season: 12-7-2; lost to Volcano Vista in 5A first round

Key players: David Hite, sr., FW; Lamar Bynum, jr., MF; Marc Silcox, sr., D; Tiger Gutierrez, sr., D; Devon Duran, sr., D.

Outlook: The Rams, always one of 5A’s most consistently winning programs, return Hite, their leading scorer — and one of 5A’s best — from last year’s squad. And although it is rather an inexperienced varsity group, Shepard said, the team is not as young as one might think. This is largely a completely revamped lineup, but Rio Rancho will continue to be competitive.

SANDIA MATADORS

Coach: Ryan Sanchez (3rd year)

Last season: 6-10-2

Key players: Will Maclay, sr., MF/FW; Ethan Maxwell, sr., D/MF; Alexis Vasquez, jr., D; Sean Torres, sr., D/FW.

Outlook: Sanchez said he’s instituted a culture change in his program since the end of last season, something he hopes will help his players “fix the aspect of what Sandia soccer is all about.” The return of Maclay — who was out of state at a soccer academy last year — should help, as he was one of the metro’s better players as a sophomore.

SANDIA PREP SUNDEVILS

Coach: Tommy Smith (22nd year)

Last season: 15-8; Class 1A-3A state champions

Key players: D.J. Roberts, sr., FW; Michael Martinez, sr., C; Nich Duran, sr., D; Eric Presura, jr., MF; Dane Gallegos, fresh., MF.

Outlook: Sandia Prep lost four of its first five last year before eventually winning state, but that is due to the Sundevils taking on bigger teams in larger classifications, and it certainly paid dividends last November. From that team, almost the entire back line graduated, so Smith is rebuilding except for Duran. Sandia Prep also lost its top two goal scorers, so it will need to find others to fill the net. Lots of good, young talent here.

ST. PIUS SARTANS

Coach: A.J. Herrera (5th year)

Last season: 16-3; lost to Los Lunas in 4A quarterfinals

Key players: Michael McGrath, sr., D; Coleman Speer, sr., GK; Heber Rios, sr., MF; Marcus Garcia, jr., FW; Ethan Johnson, sr., D; Zach Pena, jr., MF.

Outlook: The Sartans were 4A’s No. 1 seed last year but were upset by Los Lunas in the quarters, a stinging defeat. And 10 seniors graduated off that team. But Speer, who brings skill and experience to the net, is a definite bonus for St. Pius. A slew of players who didn’t get many minutes last season are going to be asked to step in and provide quality. Expectations remain very high for the Sartans.

VALENCIA JAGUARS

Coach: Eric Gutierrez (9th year)

Last season: 5-14-1

Key players: (Coach declined to name any.)

Outlook: Gutierrez described this as a rebuilding season for the Jaguars, who do have more experience than they did a year ago but haven’t yet seen their young talent mature enough to probably challenge the top teams (like St. Pius and Los Lunas) in their district. “This kids are coming together a lot quicker than we did last year,” Gutierrez said.

VALLEY VIKINGS

Coach: Orlando Ramirez (3rd year)

Last season: 6-10-2

Key players: Josh Baros, jr., MF; D; Cole McClaren, sr., MF; Axel Esparza, jr., MF; Ernesto Bustillos, sr., D; Javan Hollins, sr., GK.

Outlook: Sparked by Baros and McClaren in the center midfield, Ramirez believes the Vikings can turn their fortunes around and take a run at a playoff berth. Baros in particular, is a player Ramirez dotes on, saying he should have Division I offers before the end of the season. “He’s a grimy, gritty player that a D1 school does anything to get,” Ramirez said. Goal output needs to improve, however, the coach added.

VOLCANO VISTA HAWKS

Coach: Billy Thiebaut (12th year)

Last season: 14-6-1; lost to Mayfield in 5A semifinals

Key players: Evan Kowalski, soph., GK; Josh Rael, sr., D; Elijah Baca-Griego, sr., D; Alex Dixon, soph., MF; Sebastian Alcantar, sr., MF; Mason Cole, jr., FW.

Outlook: Seven starters return for the Hawks, whose primary concern is to replace their two top goal scorers. Volcano Vista is set on the back line and through the midfield, but where will the scoring come from? Cole, Dixon and Alcantar all are going to be expected to contribute on that front. Kowalski should be one of the state’s more solid goalkeepers, which is a necessity in the Hawks’ district, the brutal 1-5A.

WEST MESA MUSTANGS

Coach: Jorge Serrano (6th year)

Last season: 9-6-3

Key players: Bonheur Muzisha, jr., MF; Jesus Chavez, jr., MF/FW; Charles Tavares, sr., FW; Gabriel Tavares, jr., GK; Mathew Tafoya, sr., D; Javier Virgen, jr., D.

Outlook: If there is a dark horse team in District 2-5A that might challenge La Cueva, it might be the talented Mustangs. They run a very intricate passing game which is crucial to their succeess, led by Muzisha, Chavez and Tavares. West Mesa might have made the playoffs last year, but two games it won in PKs in the metro tournament were technically registered as ties, and that was a factor.

— Compiled by James Yodice, Randy Harrison, Ken Sickenger, Geoff Grammer, Kevin Hendricks, Cameron Goeldner

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