All-Empire Large School Boys Soccer: Pumas score with Pierpoint

Photo by ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat Maria Carrillo senior center-forward James Pierpoint

Photo by ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat
Maria Carrillo senior center-forward James Pierpoint

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A big player up top, James Pierpoint grew into his body and became the Empire’s premier player in Maria Carrillo’s march to the large school boys soccer section title game.

While the Pumas fell for the team’s only defeat of the 2012 campaign, Maria Carrillo enjoyed a stellar season with Pierpoint leading the way as The Press Democrat’s Large School Boys Soccer All-Empire Player of the Year.

Pierpoint was the engine in Maria Carrillo’s potent offense. Scoring a remarkable 34 goals, Pierpoint was fluid off the ball and timed runs to find openings despite constant attention from defenses. Pierpoint paced Maria Carrillo with a strong foot and an all-around game.

“James has always been a very dedicated player and this season it all came together,” Maria Carrillo coach Mike Mastin said. “James was very important to the success of the team this year. It was very rare that he would miss an opportunity to score.”

While more of a server than a scorer as a junior, Pierpoint worked hard in Santa Rosa United club soccer to become a prep finisher heading into his senior season.

“The last few years I worked really hard. I was able to take control from the top,” Pierpoint said. “My skills are getting a lot better, so I was able to do a lot more.”

Soccer is seemingly in Pierpoint’s DNA. A strong work ethic to go with a sure feel for the game goes back to his early playing days.

Born in Reading, England, his family moved to Santa Rosa when James was 5 years old.

Santa Rosa United took Pierpoint to showcases and tournaments that took his play to progressively higher levels.

But high school is where he was able to have more fun, keeping the ball on his feet for playmaking and working off touch passes. At 6-foot-2, Pierpoint also is a main target on set plays including headers.

“I like to be able to be diverse in my play,” Pierpoint said. “I definitely had a lot of confidence this year. I kind of got on a run and went with it.”

A three-year starter at Maria Carrillo, Pierpoint played center-forward this entire season, a position that put him in position to score. He required very little coaching and his improved play made teammates better.

“James puts as much energy into practice as he does games. I never have to push him,” Mastin said. “However, I think the biggest thing that changed in his game this year is that James really began to understand the game at a very high level.”

The senior-heavy squad enjoyed challenging one another in practices, combining individual skills into a team effort.

“You’re always looking for ways to improve your game, just play better,” Pierpoint said. “We had to play at a high level all the time.”

Maria Carrillo was dominant in the very tough North Bay League despite pressure from being the favorites.

“The first few rounds of sections weren’t as challenging as league,” Pierpoint said.

There is little disappointment in leading a team to a one-loss season even when that lone defeat comes to Tamalpais in the North Coast Section large school title contest.

“We had just such a great team. That made it just a fun, fun season,” Pierpoint said. “You look back and it was an awesome season.”

Looking ahead, Pierpoint wants to play for a four-year college. UC San Diego could be his destination. A top NCAA Division II program, the school also offers a sports medicine major, Pierpoint’s area of academic interest.

“I want to be able to keep soccer going with a high level of education,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.

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