SCL boys soccer: Teams jell as season accelerates

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A new season, a familiar reality in Sonoma County League boys soccer.

Analy and Windsor with Sonoma Valley a little further back remain at the top with league rivals hoping to win enough for a North Coast Section playoff bid. The SCL is so deep in quality sides this season that the league could get a handful of teams into the section playoff berths.

Casa Grande is strong, returning half of last year’s starting lineup. El Molino has its best squad in many years. Petaluma has high hopes with a young team. Healdsburg has the talent to stay in games.

“The SCL is very strong this year. I could see five teams getting into the playoffs,” said Analy coach Peter Meechan.

“This is the strongest I’ve seen the league in a long time,” said Petaluma coach Greg Lamansky.

Adding to the competitive level of play is a league change that awards three points rather than two for a win.

“It’s going to make coaches decide to win more than just play defensively and hope for a tie,” said Windsor coach Doug Hastings.

SCL TEAM-BY-TEAM ANALYSIS

ANALY

Another section playoff run — Analy reached the semifinals last season — can be expected. The Tigers return starters across the field and have filled in with a handful of players on the squad a year ago.

All-Empire players in forward Armando Coronel and back Ryan Willis give Analy top talent on both ends of the field.

Analy also returns all-league players in back AC Zepponi, Augustin Reyes and Juan Sanchez in the midfield, and forward Raffi Dick.

Team speed and communication make Analy dangerous with the ball and formidable on defense.

“It takes a few weeks to get prepared and get everyone in the right positions and familiar with each other. We have a quite few returners who are impact players and are gelling well early on here in the season,” Meechan said.

WINDSOR

The Windsor roster reveals the league’s most experienced team. Only one player moved up from junior varsity.

All-Empire center back Andres Flores and returning all-league goalkeeper Jorge Enriquez anchor a defense that has been Windsor’s strength so far this season.

While the Jaguars lost much of their goal scoring from a year ago, all-league midfielders Andres Miranda and Jose Perez lead a quick striking offense. Windsor likes to push forward wings and Flores. First-year starter Irving Cruz has been the leading scorer at forward.

“We look at counterattacking off a pressing and trapping defense. So we have to work hard and play fast,” Hastings said.

SONOMA VALLEY

Another deeply talented squad, Sonoma Valley is aiming for an outright league title after sharing the crown with Analy last season.

The Dragons are strong on both ends of the field with all-league players returning in defender Riley Clark, midfielder Jose Sanchez, and forwards Diego Benitez and Ivan Chavez.

Working well for Sonoma Valley has been an offense that spreads the field for good scoring chances.

What the Dragons are working on is better communication, particularly on defense.

“We believe Sonoma has a great chance at the SCL championship, however, any team can surprise any other team,” said Sonoma Valley coach Pedro Merino.

CASA GRANDE

Controlling contests through the midfield is Casa Grande’s best game plan.

With all-leaguer Paco Villegas, a defensive midfielder, and attacking midfielder Humberto Ponce, the Gauchos’ challenge is to make the most of possessions and get balls on the feet of scorers in position for quality shots. Noah Wilson is a striker with an eye for the net.

“They have great insight and feel for the game,” said Casa Grande coach Lee Summerscales.

A more confident Sam Faulkenberg in goal has helped keep Casa Grande close to opponents this season.

To reach the section playoffs, however, Casa Grande must do better, especially at home against the league’s best.

“We’ve got some work to do and the boys know that,” Summerscales said.

EL MOLINO

The Lions appear on the rise with a mix of eight seniors and underclassmen who return as starters. The goals are a winning record and a section playoff berth.

Defense has been the difference for El Molino entering league play. Saul Onofre anchors the back line with Will Plaugher and Kyle Keough also returning. Mitch Parsons is back as a defensive midfielder.

An attacking midfield led by all-league player Valentin Salas and Connor Hennen has helped create more scoring chances. Wings Juan Carmona and Prince Buttar are comfortable moving into the offensive flow.

“We had a pretty nice corps come back and it happens to be a good crop of talent,” said El Molino coach Dan Calmeyer. “They’ve been able to play together. That’s been a huge step for us. That allows us to develop some tactical soccer.”

PETALUMA

Having already doubled last year’s win total, Petaluma is building for the future with a young team.

Garren Langford, an all-league midfielder, leads a strong Trojans two-way effort. Also back in the midfield are Dan Brockman and Anders Lund. Tyler Meten solidifies the defense and Patrick Rabbit is in goal.

Petaluma is developing a handful of newcomers to the varsity including strikers Griffin Carrey and Kake Wichman. Luke Rivetti is new on the back line.

Playing more consistent soccer on both ends of the field for a full game is the Trojans challenge.

“We play really up and down. Sometimes they play great. We have guys learning how to play at this level,” said Petaluma coach Greg Lamansky.

HEALDSBURG

Healdsburg has the talent to compete with any team in the league. Mixing in several new starters has pushed some players into new positions.

All-Empire midfielder Diego Perez is joined by all-league players Rey Rodriguez on defense and forwards Omar Nuno and Jordan Vega.

A pair of first-year starters are at the wings in Everado Romo and Jonathan Lopez. Anchoring the defense is another first-year starter Diego Cervantes.

What the Greyhounds are working on is creating better scoring chances out of a midfield that has been solid on the defensive side with Perez and Eduardo Magdaleno.

“We’re working on our technical ability. We have a lot of kids that are very physical,” said Healdsburg coach Herbert Lemus. “We’re scrappy and like to win the ball. We try to make the most out of every opportunity we get.”