Posted on 16 December 2013 by La Habra Journal
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by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
What is still a promising season for the La Habra boys soccer team will now have to include patience and endurance after the sudden passing of Steve Aanderud, La Habra’s head coach for 13 seasons.
La Habra graduate and now co-head coach Earvin Aleman will take over with help from Joel Carlisle, a varsity football assistant and former girls’ varsity coach, to lead an experienced Highlanders’ squad as they continue to play with heavy hearts in the 2013-14 season.
“I think that the thought of Steve will be a motivating factor because they grew up with him,” Aleman said. “He trained them since they were little kids, so playing this year without him, it’s a huge loss, but I think it will be a motivation for them to do their best.”
The Highlanders will also be a bit shorthanded up front at the start of the season after senior captain Robert Coronado suffered a right ankle injury.
However, La Habra still has plenty of strength up front with the return of talented junior striker Austin Nazer, who will be joined by senior outside forward Eric Sandoval and junior Samuel Anguiano.
Kolby McInally will anchor the midfielders, most of which are returners, and will be a threat to take a long-distance shot. He is joined by juniors Charlie Aleman, Joe Salinas and Josue Rodriguez, who is out until mid-January with an injury.
La Habra will once again trust in CJ Camacho, an enforcer on defense, to lead from the sweeper position with Julio Nava and Javier Urias also contributing.
However, one of the Highlanders’ biggest assets is an experienced goalkeeper as Richie Ruiz, who possesses good size and range, returns for his senior season.
“I’m just hoping that we come out and play as a team and play the way that we know we’re capable of playing, typical La Habra soccer,” Aleman said. “As long as they come out and do their best, that’s all that matters.”
Aleman, 20, comes into this role as co-head coach with one year of experience coaching junior varsity last year, which means he already knows a good portion of the players on this year’s team.
However, even with a camaraderie, he admitted it’s going to be a challenge to fill this role so soon.
“I coached most of these kids on junior varsity last season,” Aleman said. “I’m a little nervous about it, I was hoping Steve would help me out for the first couple years, but unfortunately that can’t happen. Carlisle is here to help and he has experience, which is huge. Hopefully we can still accomplish something special this year.”
In nonleague action, the Highlanders scheduled the Irvine Team Challenge, the Huntington Beach All-Turf Tournament and the Trabuco Hills Mustang Cup, along with nonleague games against Schurr, Montebello and Anaheim.
In league play, Fullerton and Sunny Hills look to be tough, but La Habra could wedge its way in and challenge for a playoff spot.
“I think if we come out and play well, we’ll still surprise a lot of people,” Aleman said. “We’re still dealing with some big injuries to Robert and Josue, but hopefully we can keep pace with the top and then when they come back in mid-January we’ll be in a good spot.”
Over the past few seasons, Sonora boys’ soccer Head Coach Cory Witt has noticed a trend, one that has led him to make some changes to the Raiders’ schedule heading into the 2013-14 season.
After starting 7-0-7 last season in tournaments, the Raiders struggled in league play and missed the playoffs. This season, Witt has scratched all preseason tournaments and the Raiders will play six nonleague games in preparation for the always tough Freeway League.
In addition, Witt has postponed his team’s conditioning regimen by two months in the hopes that the team will start to hit its peak during league play, rather than preseason.
“We really pride ourselves on our training and what we do with the kids in preparation for the season,” Witt said. “Over the last few years we’ve come out of the gates like gangbusters, we win a tournament or reach the finals and play a 15-game preseason, but when we get to league, for whatever reason, we just burn out. This year we’re trying a different approach.”
The hope with these changes is that the limited playing time against live competition will keep the boys hungry to get on the playing field and increase their energy during games.
In order to find success this season, the team will rely more on its defense to try and gain the upper hand.
For that, Witt is happy to have senior goalkeeper Luis Gonzalez, who will be starting in net for his third year. Chris Park and Erik Oliva are key returning defenders, while sophomore Kyle Huitt will provide plenty of support.
“He’s been training well for us, he’ll hopefully be lights out for us,” Witt said. “We’ve really put a heavy focus on our defense this year. We’ve always prided ourselves on that, last year we went with three backs because our midfield was weak, so we’re making adjustments to focus on that this year.”
However, Witt knows that games cannot be won unless the team can score, which is where Eli Rico-Torres comes into play.
The junior was Sonora’s leading scorer last year as a sophomore and will be a leader again this season. This year he’ll be joined by fellow junior Andy Araiza, who Witt said has matured on and off the field.
In the midfield, the Raiders have senior center-mid Jose Murillo and sophomore Steve Vizzarraga, who Witt said is a special player who comes in with a lot of training.
“We definitely need to score some goals this year in order to contend,” Witt said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve won a league title and we’re going to be shooting for it, but it’s going to be a really tough year.”
The Raiders will have a limited number of games before the start of league play, with nonleague games against Valencia, La Mirada, Western, California, Bolsa Grande and Whittier.
Witt said the reason for the lack of tournaments is because he wants to consider the Freeway League his team’s biggest tournament and if the team can make playoffs, it’s a second tournament.
“It’s a new philosophy we’re trying this season,” Witt said. “We’ll see what happens. There’s an itch to get on the field and I want that. If that itch is there in league, then that means they’re going to fight, they won’t be burned out, they won’t be flat at the start of the game.”
In league play, Witt’s mentality is that everyone is a rival and more teams will be in the mix for a playoff spot than not. The head coach gives Fullerton and La Habra the slight edge early on, while Sunny Hills and Troy will also be tough.
He added that the emotions felt at La Habra could have effects on the way the Highlanders’ season unfolds, but he hopes they help in a positive way.
“The loss of Steve has hit everyone pretty heavy, a lot of these boys are close with there’s,” Witt said. “We feel their loss with that, no one wanted to see that and we’re going to miss him terribly. Hopefully we can honor him with our play throughout the league this season.”
After finishing last season without a win in the Olympic League, the Whittier Christian boys’ soccer team will be under new leadership in the 2013-14 season as six-year assistant Matt Rojas takes over for Matt Morse.
With new leadership will come a new system, but Rojas is trying to keep it simple with a team that brings back a few key players.
“I’m really excited, I’ve been a part of the team for a long time,” Rojas said. “I didn’t mind assisting, I wanted to ease into it, but now my focus is developing a good relationship with the boys and going into this year, I’m hopeful to contribute to what I’ve seen in the past and move forward.”
One of the biggest key players that will help bring in Rojas’ new approach is Dylan Murphy, who has been cleared to play soccer this season after needing emergency surgery to clear blood clots in his leg during football season.
Murphy was the team’s starting goalkeeper last season, but will be eased back into the role this year as his leg continues to improve. In the meantime, he will play an outside forward position.
Senior midfielder Andrew Lopez will also be a leader in terms of character, but Rojas also believes that sophomore Juan Carlos Reinis and junior Aaron Sanchez will be leaders by example on the field.
For the time being, junior Jeff Hargrave will fill in for Murphy in net, while Mitchell Neller is a key piece at center back. Harry Kim provides skill at the center-midfielder position with help from Lopez and Sanchez, while senior Matthew Rada will help Murphy and Reinis on the front line.
The key for this team early on is to develop team chemistry, as the Heralds only return a handful of players from last year’s team.
“We’re just trying to build a little character right now, hopefully it helps us going forward,” Rojas said. “We kind of have a new team, a lot of guys from junior varsity who are capable, just new, so we’re really working on team chemistry.”
That chemistry will come into play if the Heralds plan to take full advantage of the system Rojas has put in place.
Whittier Christian will look to take advantage of the counterattack, which means the defensive side of the ball will have to be strong.
“I would like to utilize a counterattack approach,” Rojas said. “We want to use disciplined defense to set up a counterattack and use that speed up top. Once we put away a goal, we want to rely on our keeper to hold it. Team chemistry and discipline will be our keys to victory this year.”
The Heralds will have plenty of time to work on that approach, as they play in the North Orange County Championships and the Ontario Christian Tournament along with nonleague matches against Wilson of Hacienda Heights, Pacifica of Garden Grove, La Quinta of Westminster and Bosco Tech.
“Skill-wise, we’re just going to encourage them to keep it up, mistakes are going to be made,” Rojas said. “We just have to learn to be resilient and overcome that. We’re looking to make some progress over the next couple weeks.”
When it comes to the Olympic League, Rojas believes that Valley Christian and Maranatha are the top two, but Rojas believes that his team can perform well as long as they take it one step at a time.
“I see them doing exceptionally well, I think a good goal to have is a League championship,” Rojas said. “Knowing that we struggled last year though, I don’t want to set the bar too high, I would like to take it game-by-game and not scare them. Discipline comes a long way and we need to take it step by step. I just want them to be disciplined and patient, let other teams make mistakes and look to counterattack.”