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Sparks schools set for new boys soccer season
by Aaron Retherford
Aug 27, 2011 | 1103 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo John Byrne - parks’ Eric Ojeda prepares to dribble by a pursuer in Thursday’s workouts.
Tribune photo John Byrne - parks’ Eric Ojeda prepares to dribble by a pursuer in Thursday’s workouts.
Last year was the first time two boys soccer teams from Sparks went all the way to state after winning their respective Northern Region championships in a somewhat unexpected fashion.

Both Spanish Springs and Sparks are looking to reload and repeat that success, while taking those runs even further this fall. Reed is just hoping to reach the playoffs and use last year’s growing experiences as a catapult to a successful season.

- Spanish Springs Cougars -

•The squad from north Sparks only lost four starters out of the 11 senior graduates from a year ago when the Cougars knocked off back-to-back top seeds at regionals to win the program’s first boys soccer regional crown.

“It’s kind of like last year. We just need to work as a team,” SSHS boys soccer coach Rob Moreland said. “We’ve got a bunch of good individuals out here. They just have to come together as a team just like they did last year.”

Leading the way for Spanish Springs is 2010 Offensive Player of the Year Irvin Somera, who is now a senior. Julio Soto is also back after leading the team in goals. The Cougars had five freshmen who performed well and with last year’s experience under their belts has made them a force.

“We went all the way to state. You can’t get more experience than that,” Moreland said. “The kids look at it like they can do it again. Yes, they can, but they have to do it the right way.”

Spanish Springs and Sparks scrimmaged earlier this week, and the Cougars were held scoreless, proving Moreland’s point that the team can’t afford to play as individuals.

When Spanish Springs stopped playing as individuals last year, that’s when the team enjoyed its most success in the W-L column. Not only did the Cougars score a lot of goals, but by possessing the ball so much, it took a lot of pressure off the defense.

Moreland plans on playing the same style of pressure offense with three forwards and only three defenders in the back.

“I’m just looking forward to the season. I know other teams are going to be gunning for us, which is a different place than we’ve been in before,” Moreland said.

Spanish Springs takes on Wooster at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at home in the league opener for both teams.

- Sparks Railroaders -

•The Sparks boys soccer program is running like a well-oiled machine. No matter how many players the team loses, there are always talented players coming up behind them.

It’s much of the same this year, and it might be more prevalent as over 40 boys are participating in the program, allowing coach Frank Avilla to field a full JV team. Sparks’ freshman class is 14 strong, the largest group ever.

“We’re realizing what winning creates. We have more numbers out this year for our two programs varsity and JV, and I can say varsity and JV with confidence. We have a full schedule of JV games in the 3A,” Avilla said. “We have more talent and speed on the field than we’ve ever had. The question is can they gel? Can they work together? All indications is they’re going to be doing that. We’re looking forward to the continued success we’ve had.”

Eric Ojeda, Kevin Partida and Edgar Casillas are expected to make the offense go, while Noe Espana, Danny Cervantes, Jorge Ramirez and Mitchell Garcia will hold down the fort on the back line.

Sparks has won two regional crowns under Avilla and has also advanced to the state championship game twice, losing both times. But the Railroaders have missed out on another accomplishment that sometimes goes overlooked.

The Maroon and Gold has never won the regular season league championship. In fact, both times Sparks has won the 3A North title, the local squad had finished third during the regular season.

“All we continue to strive for is to improve week to week, but it’s never worked out that way. Yes, we would like to win a league title,” Avilla said. “That’s one of the things we haven’t done. We’ve won two zone titles and were runners-up at state the past two years. We look forward to getting over that hump.”

Like Spanish Springs and Reed, Sparks competed in the Galena preseason tournament. Avilla was very happy with his team’s draw, having to play Reno, Incline, Bishop Manogue and Douglas in pool play.

Avilla said he wouldn’t want it any other way heading into the tournament because he wanted to see what his team has. Clearly, the Railroaders have something special. After winning both games Friday, Sparks shut out all three of its opponents Saturday, including Truckee in the championship game.

“It was one of the goals we set this year. It’s something we’ve never done, and this is the year we’re talking about doings things that we’ve never done,” Avilla said. “I think they’re attainable goals as long as they keep showing the team effort they showed this weekend. We realize on any given day anybody can beat anybody. But the discipline the boys are showing this early in the season shows the dedication they have for the sport.”

Sparks hosts Dayton at 4 p.m. Tuesday in its regular season opener.

- Reed Raiders -

•Reed has everyone back from last season, including a couple of players who were ineligible that would have been a couple of the team’s top players.

While the Raiders only won a couple games, that game experience will do nothing but help.

Senior Dylan Valentine is a two-time first team all-league forward and will be looked upon to notch a bulk of the goals. Last year, Valentine was really the only scoring option, but the Raiders should be deeper with scoring threats.

Gonzalo Arellano is expected to be huge in the back, while Antonio Suarez will shore up the midfield.

Coach Jeff Valentine believes with the hire of a new coach, former Raider Casey Anderson, team chemistry has drastically improved.

“I’m actually very excited about this year with the change in the team’s attitude and how they’re performing in practice,” Jeff Valentine said. “All the key additions with the guys who are eligible and the freshmen coming in, it’s going to be huge.”

Reed opens the season Monday against North Tahoe and begins the league slate Wednesday against Douglas. Both games are at home with 7 p.m. start times.

“We’re shooting for the playoffs. We may not be the top team, but we won’t go 2-16 like we did last year,” Jeff Valentine said.
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