Here’s a brief look at each of the three Rail City schools’ boys soccer squads.
•Reed is the two-time defending High Desert League champion, but returning players likely have some bitter feelings about last year. After winning the HDL, the Raiders saw their season cut short in a 3-0 upset loss to Bishop Manogue in the first round of the regional playoffs.
The RHS club will quickly get a chance to get at least a small piece of revenge as it opens its new season Wednesday at Manogue at 3:30 p.m.
First-year coach Jeff Valentine think is team is ready for its 2009 debut.
“We’re definitely ready to get out there and play a full game. When you play 25-minute halves, you can’t really work on too much,” Valentine said, alluding to his team participating in last weekend’s jamboree, which had modified time rules. “I really like what we have ... We have a lot of seniors with something to shoot for.”
The Raiders will be led by a trio of seniors who were first-team all-league selections last fall. Defender Casey Campbell, midfielder Jesse Mendoza and forward Ricardo Martinez make up that group. Valentine cited sophomores Luca Licciardi and Dylan Valentine as players he expects to make big contributions.
“I believe once we get everything going, our defense and goal-keeping will be strengths,” said Valentine, who is a 1986 Reed graduate. “We have one of the best goalkeepers if not in the West certainly the state. I actually believe we have defensive and offensive ability. Once we get to league, all that should be fine.”
Spanish Springs Cougars
•After being an afterthought in the High Desert League for years, Spanish Springs earned a regional playoff berth and was in the hunt for a league crown until the final weekend of the season last fall.
Rob Moreland took over the SSHS program last year and guided the Cougars to an 8-3-4 mark. He’s changed the mindset and expectation level for the program.
“We’re shooting for the playoffs every year. We have to,” Moreland said. “I think we’ll be in the playoff hunt.
“As players are finding out, you can’t just show up and be on a team. There are players out there working harder. We’re getting more competitive. We’re not going to be the stepchild anymore. We’re going to be contenders. I think other teams understand that too. When you play Spanish Springs now, you better bring your ‘A’ game, because we’re bringing ours, no matter what kind of team we have.”
Moreland made a list of four players he expects to be key leaders for his team this season. Senior sweeper Jose Martinez, junior defender/goalkeeper Eder Zamosa, sophomore midfielder Irvin Somera and sophomore midfielder Matt Munley comprised that list.
The second-year coach said his team is young. While he likes the squad, he knows it has some growing to do.
“We’re very good technically, but as far as our decision making and tactics go, that needs to grow ... We still need to settle down and get our composure. We’re young and chomping at the bit, but we need to settle down and not run-and-gun all the time.”
The Cougars begin their schedule Wednesday at Wooster at 3:30 p.m.
•Since becoming an official 3A school in the 2004-05 school year, Sparks has consistently been among the top teams in the 3A North. The Railroaders were 12-4-1 a year ago and SHS skipper Frank Avilla believes his team can be just as good if not better this season.
“We’ve got good tradition and we’ve got good talent coming back,” Avilla said. “I’m really happy with where we are. The kids have worked hard.”
Sparks returns one of the top players in northern Nevada in senior Abey Quintino. He was a first team all-league pick last fall after racking up 24 goals and 20 assists in 16 games. Those numbers were impressive, but Avilla said his team should have more balance and Quintino should get more help in the scoring column this time around.
“I don’t think Abey will have to do it all like he’s had to in the past. I think we have 11 solid seniors out there this year. We’re not hiding anybody,” he added.
Sparks should bring an experienced team to the field as it has 14 seniors on the roster. Among players expected to be team leaders this season are Danny Ornelas, Jose Mercado, Cesar Garcia and Ivan Torres.
“Our maturity, our speed, our knowledge of the game should all be strengths,” Avilla said. “The boys have made a commitment to play together and work hard together, even in the offseason.”