Railroaders on the road to repeat
If you asked Sparks boys soccer coach Frank Avilla if his squad was rebuilding this year, he would likely give you a confused a look.
“Sparks doesn’t rebuild,” the Railroaders’ tenured coach said. “It reloads.”
If the program were to rebuild in 2015, it would be understandable. Sparks went 22-3-2 last season on its way to the DI-A North title but lost six seniors to graduation, including captains Cesar Arroyo, Oscar Gomez and Luis Geisendorf.
The Railroaders will also be without junior stud Jesus Partida who tore his ACL over the summer and will miss the 2015 season. He will undergo surgery Sept. 10. Partida alone accounted for more than 35 percent of the team’s goals last season (29 of 81) and chipped in eight assists.
“You can’t replace a Jesus Partida,” Avilla said. “I’m sad because he makes our team better, there’s no question … If anything though, I feel bad for him. Because you know how much he loves to play soccer and you can see it in his eyes.”
But like Avilla said, Sparks doesn’t rebuild.
The Railroaders’ head man said this is one of the deepest, fastest and all-around most talented squads he’s had at Sparks High.
Even Partida, who will serve as team manager this season, has noticed the surplus of talent.
“I asked (Partida on Thursday), I asked ‘how do we look?’ and (Partida) said ‘coach, I think we look better than we have in a long time,’” Avilla recalled.
It will also be one of the youngest squads Avilla has led.
Just four seniors sit on the roster, only one of which will begin the season in the starting lineup. The four seniors are countered by four freshmen who Avilla feels can make an impact this fall.
Freshman Erik Vazuez, brother of junior captain Genaro Vazquez, assisted one of his brother’s two goals in last Friday’s 2-0 win over Bishop Manogue in Galena’s non-league tournament.
The Railroaders finished 3-1 in the preseason tournament with a 2-0 win over North Valleys—the defending DI North champ—in the tournament finale. Their lone loss came to Incline Village in penalty kicks.
Sparks starts its DI-A North slate in dramatic fashion next Wednesday when it travels to Truckee in a rematch of last fall’s regional title game in Truckee.
Both teams won on the other’s home field last regular season before Sparks celebrated a regional title in Truckee. The Wolverines went on to win the state title.
“You know how that is (playing in Truckee),” Avilla said. “We’re looking forward (to it).”
Mora looking to continue winning ways at Spanish Springs
There is no debate. The Spanish Springs boys soccer program is one of the strongest in Northern Nevada.
The Cougars have not finished lower than second in the High Desert League the last four years, compiling a 43-13-8 record against DI North teams in that four-year span. They have also appeared in the DI North title game two of the last three years. But that was under now-former coach Rob Moreland.
Winston Mora is the new man running the show, taking over for Moreland who stepped down in the offseason to spend time with family. Mora, however, is no new face to the program. He ran the Cougars’ junior varsity program since 2004 and is also the Spanish Springs Track and Field coach. So yes, the Cougs’ will be conditioned this fall.
“That’s definitely one of the things we’re going to be focused on,” Mora said in June. “Being in good shape.”
Outside of getting his players conditioned, Spanish Springs’ track coach coach certainly has his share of hurdles in front of him in his first year at the helm of the boys soccer program.
The Cougars lost forward Victor Garcia, midfielder Omar De Leon and defender Fredy Ariola to graduation. All three were captains and first-team all-league selections last year, the only first-team selections on the squad. Second-team midfielder Jesus Gonzalez also graduated.
Returning for the Cougs are senior second-team midfielder Rudy Hernandez, sophomore second-team defender Anibal Gonzalez and junior second-team goalie Hugo Rodriguez. Mora also listed junior Court Diesner, a team captain as a sophomore, and junior Daniel Vazquez as players to watch this season.
Spanish Springs’ new coach said that with so much transition within in the team this year, the focus is on strength in unity.
“Our identity will be more of we not me, together is more, type of situation,” Mora said. “I believe if they are able to buy into the team concept, we’re going to be alright.”
The former JV coach said his adjustment to head varsity coach is going “well so far” and that the shift is eased by the fact he worked with a number of the varsity players already when they were freshmen and sophomores.
The most blaring difference from his old role to his new one, is the level of daily mental preparation required.
“You have to prepare yourself mentally to prepare the kids mentally,” he said. “That’s the biggest difference.”
With the tradition of the program, Mora isn’t making any conservative goals in year No. 1. He expects the team to remain a hunter in the HDL and DI North.
“The goal is to win the league, to go to regionals, to go to state,” he said. “If you don’t aim high, you don’t go anywhere.”
The Cougars will get their first indication of where they stand in the Northern Nevada pecking order when they open the season Wednesday at home against Wooster—another perennial regional power—at 7 p.m.
Some of the players on both sides will certainly have jitters playing their first games of the season. What about Mora, standing on the sideline in his first game as the varsity coach?
“Not really,” he laughed. “It’s a game. Like I tell them, you prepare. Preparation is where it’s at.
“I’m just excited to be in this situation and I look forward to a great season.”
Raiders geared for run at playoffs
Reed and the postseason haven’t gotten along.
Entering his fourth season as the Raiders’ head coach, Joel Martinez estimates it’s been up to eight years since the Blue and Gold earned the right to play past the regular season.
It’s not that Reed hasn’t been close to qualifying for the regional tournament, because it has. The Raiders’ biggest bugaboo in recent years has been letting consequential games late in the season slip though their net, er, fingers.
“We just have to win the games that in the previous three years, (have) just been the game(s) we couldn’t finish,” Martinez said. “Whether it was the defensive end, or the midfield, or the forward, we just have to finish those games.
“Last year we blew the lead three to four times and those three to four games were the ones that cost us at the end of the season.”
Part of the problem in year’s past has been Reed’s lack of depth. Last season, Forward Adrian Lopez was the High Desert League Offensive Player of the Year and Elio Martinez was the HDL Midfielder of the Year but just one other was a first-team selection and two players were named to the second team as the squad limped to the finish line.
Martinez recognized it will be tough to replace the presence of Lopez and Martinez but feels the 2015 bunch’s overall depth will help with that challenge.
“It’s probably the strongest (team I’ve had),” the fourth-year coach said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve had great players, I’ve coached a lot of great players but this is definitely one of the deepest. I’m excited. I’m really, really excited about it.”
Martinez said a staggering 57 student-athletes tried out this fall, which contributed to the depth on his squad’s 22-player roster heading into the fall season.
The Raiders will have a mix of youth on their squad, including freshman midfielder Xavier Vega who Martinez is particularly excited about. Junior wing Kairo Collazo, senior midfielder Walter Ordonez, senior midfielder Alex Reyes as well as senior sweeper and captain Andrew Outland are expected to have the biggest impact from the upperclassmen.
With the variety of youth and sage on the team, Reed’s coach spoke to the importance of unity.
“In order for us to successful, every player on the team has to be coachable,” Martinez said. “We can’t have any egos or we can’t have anybody that thinks their better than the other. We have to play as a team. I think that’s going to be our strong point this year.”
Reed’s depth and talent will be tested for the first time (excluding a scrimmage with Reno last Friday) Wednesday afternoon at Bishop Manogue—another program in the midst of a postseason drought.
First touch is at 3:30 p.m.
“Just like Andrew (Outland), our captain said, I’ve been waiting for this since the last game of the season,” Martinez said. “I think we’re all on the same page and we’re all in that same mentality where we’re ready for that first whistle and ready to get the ball rolling.”