BY ELENA BATEMAN AND EMILY WRIGHT
Despite coming off a mediocre 10-10-1 season last year, the varsity boys soccer team has started this season undefeated with a 3-0-2 record, beating Del Oro, Woodcreek and Placer and tying Rocklin and Granite Bay.
All five schools have had successful teams in recent years and the Tigers have managed to get by all of them without a loss.
According to coach Pablo Gutierrez, this year’s team, led by senior captains midfielder Ryan Branigan, goalkeeper Kyle Kellogg and defender Ryan Poindexter, is strong in all aspects.
The Tigers are anchored by Branigan and fellow senior Pedro Rivas in the midfield. The two have four years of previous varsity experience between them and, according to Gutierrez, are putting it to use to lock down their opponents this year.
The team’s front line is headed primarily by seniors Braden Triplett and Sven Reuvers and sophomore Austin Wehner but also has a talented group coming off the bench. Triplett and Reuvers bring height to the forward line, standing at 6’1” and 6’3”, respectively, and Wehner leads the team in goals with four. The Tiger defense has proved impenetrable so far, allowing zero goals in five games.
Gutierrez highlights Poindexter and junior Max Garbolino as two reliable and skillful center defenders, even going further to say that Poindexter is one of the best defenders in the league. Garbolino was pulled up to the team last year as a sophomore and continues to excel.
Seeing as pulling up talented underclassmen to the varsity team has been so successful for him in recent years, Gutierrez decided to try his luck again with Wehner and fellow sophomore Cameron Fletcher this year. Wehner has not had a problem putting the ball in the back of the net as a forward and Gutierrez believes that Fletcher, a midfielder, has also adapted well to the varsity level.
Kellogg recognizes the advantage of having a few underclassmen on the roster and looks forward to a successful season.
“I feel like we’re going to be really good this year,” Kellogg said. “We have a lot of good players and we’ve brought in a lot of new talent and it helps a lot, especially having a few younger guys on the team. They’re going to be a big asset and key players on our team to get us to playoffs.”
He also feels that the team’s increased seriousness and focus this year will show in its performance.
“This year everyone is a lot more serious and intense and determined,” Kellogg said. “The last couple years we weren’t nearly as serious and it was more for fun. But this year, a majority of the team is seniors so we’re really hoping to do well.”
BY JACKSON ESPARZA
The varsity girls soccer team has 15 returning players this year; the second highest amount in the Capital Valley Conference. Last year, despite having a very young team that included 12 underclassmen, the girls reached the second round of the playoffs and ended their season with a 12-8-2 winning record.
With only four of its 18 players being seniors, the Tigers have another young team this year. However, youth was not a problem for the girls last year; current sophomores Mackenzie Gill and Molly Branigan were the team’s leading scorer and Most Valuable Player, respectively.
Branigan is confident for the season as she feels that the girls new to the team last year, such as herself, now have a full year of experience that they will be able to use to their advantage.
“This year we are going into the year knowing our strengths and weaknesses, unlike last year, which will help us improve on them,” Branigan said.
Coach Paul Stewart has faith that this group of girls will build on last year’s success.
“We lost only one starter and we were extremely young last year,” Stewart said. “With nine returning starters and others ready to take their place, it is great to be a part of.”
The Tigers are 3-0 so far in the preseason and average 2.3 goals per game, highlighting their offensive capabilities. They defeated Inderkum, Rocklin and Vista del Lago and managed to hold them all scoreless while doing so, proving the strength of their defense. Due to several of the players’ prior commitments to club teams, the Tigers have already had to cancel several practices and a tournament. To make up for this loss of valuable playing time, Stewart has tried to schedule extra preseason games to prepare for conference play.
“We were taking it easy the first two weeks on the girls because they were still finishing up big showcases and tournaments,” Stewart said. “I didn’t want any of them to be tired or get hurt before the club season ended.”
In the eyes of sophomore defender Hannah Heaton, this loss of practice time will not have a huge effect on the season and the team as a whole will be able to bring their game to the next level.
“With last year’s seniors gone, and new people joining the team, it causes not only the new players, but also the returning to step up and fulfill the lost positions,” Heaton said.
Sophomore forward Kelsey Gill has set the bar even higher and has her sights set on postseason accolades.
“Now that we have had a whole season together I feel that we will be better because we know how each other plays, and I believe we can win a section title,” Gill said.