Confidence, team unity key state title run

At first glance, the 2002 HRV boys soccer team looks to have the same level of talent, the same unity, and the same competitive drive as the team that reached last year’s state quarterfinals.

But, if you go right down the middle, you realize just how different this team is — at least in terms of its overall size and the faces on the field.

The graduations of two six-foot center midfielders (Josh Kitts and Jordan Thompson), a rock on the back line (Ben Saur), and a burly all-conference goalkeeper (Rafael Mondragon) may spell “rebuilding” for some teams. But not HRV.

Like any top-notch program, the Eagles have plenty of young talent ready to step in and make another run toward a state title.

“A few of our team leaders are gone, but we have a lot of solid players coming up to fill in,” said senior Matt Dallman, who will join returning starters Alex and Dereck Ponce, and junior Todd Price in the midfield.

“We have the same goals as last year, but I think we’ll do even better this year. If we set our minds to it, we can go even further in the playoffs this time around,” he said.

Dallman and the Eagles plan to capitalize on last year’s experience to get them to the next level. And they’re going to need it right out of the gate, as they face 2001 state semifinalist Redmond in their first-ever Intermountain Conference match on Thursday.

“We don’t fear anyone,” second-year head coach Doug Beveridge said. “If we play our game and make good decisions, we’re going to punish a lot of teams.”

No one on the roster or the coaching staff doubts that the Eagles will score a lot of goals. With the return of Corey Vandlac, Dallman and the Ponce brothers, along with first-year starting forward Jon Munk, the Eagles are poised for an all-out scoring barrage in 2002.

However, Beveridge cautions that the team may also give up a lot of goals early in the season without the presence of Saur and the experience of Mondragon.

“We could be looking at a lot of 5-3, 5-4 wins,” he said. “But when this group gets used to each other, they’re going to be tough.”

Senior captain Andy Holmson and sophomore Alvaro Lara will anchor the middle of the four-man back line, which also features returning starter Arnolfo Santillan and newcomer Joel Santillan on the outsides.

The newest addition to the defense is junior goalkeeper Julio Loza, who has shown tremendous promise with his heart and athletic ability. Other key additions this year are junior defender Jose Avila, sophomore forward Tony Diaz, and sophomore midfielder/ forward Sean Rawson.

“We’ve got lots of young guys this year, but it’s a really good atmosphere,” Dallman said. “It’s going to be a fun year because we all know we’re going to do well.”

HRV plays in the Aloha Jamboree today, which will be the final tune-up for Thursday’s conference opener in Redmond.

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