The 2014 boys prep soccer season offered a new spice to an old recipe. The state champion again came from Albuquerque, but this time it was first-time winner Volcano Vista, which edged Albuquerque High in the final.
The Hawks and Bulldogs both should be fearsome again this fall, along with Cibola and La Cueva as the 2015 season gets underway this weekend.
Most of the schools in the metro area begin their season Monday or Tuesday at the Albuquerque Metro Championships at the APS Complex.
District 1-6A produced the top regular-season team last year, Cibola, and the Cougars were also the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
But it was 1-6A rival Volcano Vista that carried the blue trophy across the street to its campus.
“We’re in a similar spot as last year,” Hawks coach Billy Thiebaut said. “We could be .500 or be state champions again.”
Six starters return, as well as senior midfielder Sergio Fuentes, who was hurt most of last year. But the Hawks need to shore up their back line, Thiebaut said.
“Billy told me over the summer that they could even be better than last year,” AHS coach Lucien Starzynski said.
Volcano Vista and the Bulldogs will square off next week in pool play at the metro event, their only scheduled meeting of the year.
AHS is led by goalkeeper Andrea Seazzu, a senior who has given a commitment to Air Force and who was 6A’s first-team all-state ‘keeper a year ago.
“We have guys who are hungry to get right back into that final game,” Starzynski said.
Cibola lost a tremendous facilitator in Sergio Rivas, but senior forward Joe Ortiz is one of eight starters returning for the Cougars, as is goalkeeper Enrico Sanchez. Ortiz was first-team all-state in 2014.
“I hope we can continue to enjoy a lot of the success we had last year,” Cibola coach Cameron Clarke said.
The other state semifinalists a year ago were District 2-6A rivals La Cueva and Sandia. The Bears open with a new coach, former La Cueva standout Easy Jimenez.
“I’d be shocked if it’s not the same four again,” Jimenez said of this year’s state semifinals.
One of the top scorers in 6A last year, senior forward Aaron Otto, is one of eight starters back for La Cueva, and Jimenez also believes he has a stellar goaltending tandem in Anthony Muñoz and Chris O’Neill.
District 1-6A sent its top four teams to state in 2014, and both Rio Rancho and Cleveland expect to be back there this season.
“This is the top district in the state, hands down,” Thiebaut said.
A former La Cueva assistant coach, Jerry Duran, has taken over at Manzano.
Albuquerque Academy has been to the state final in each of the last two seasons, and the Chargers have played for the title six times since the school’s last championship season in 2001. Last November, Capital captured the 5A title.
Nine starters are back for coach Laney Kolek, including freshman phenom Jayson Baca.
Academy has five first-team all-state players returning from last season, and the Chargers will certainly be in the mix in November.
“It’s my job to alleviate some of that pressure early on and help them build as a team,” Kolek said.
A.J. Herrera is one of the best players to ever filter through St. Pius, and now the former Sartan is the Sartans’ coach.
“There’s so much to be determined,” Herrera said. “We’re a young group. … I see a lot of potential out there.”
St. Pius will have seven freshmen out of 17 varsity players, Herrera said.
This a rare year in which Sandia Prep is not the defending state champion. Not only that, but the Sundevils probably aren’t even the best team in their district.
“Bosque (School),” Sandia Prep coach Tommy Smith said, “is by far the best team in our class, and one of the top two or three teams at any level.”
The Bobcats and veteran coach Klaus Weber – who told the Journal that this may very well be his swan song season before retirement – return their entire lineup from last year, and Weber has had this group of players together for most of their careers.
“We definitely have our sights set pretty high, and hopefully it works out,” Weber said.
Bosque School, a state semifinalist last year, is led by the likes of goalkeeper Barrett Meigs, center defender Devon Baird and senior forward Dylan Chant, among others.
The Sundevils, who lost to Santa Fe Prep in last year’s state final, return only one starter: senior defender Gabe Eckenroth, who was first team all-state last season.
Smith, however, expects to have one of the classification’s most dynamic players in freshman Skylor Rose. Smith says Rose might even be more skilled than Academy freshman Baca, who is a club teammate of Rose.
“He could be our leading scorer by a lot,” Smith said of Rose.