Photo By: Shirley Pefley/Special to the Town Crier
Senior center back Ed Sartor, right, is one of the top defenders on the Los Altos High soccer team.
The Los Altos High boys soccer team aspires to challenge for the league title and go deep into the playoffs, but reaching those goals will require scoring some.
Five games into the season, Los Altos has produced just two goals. The Eagles have a pair of 1-0 victories – blanking Burlingame and Fremont – but failed to get on the scoreboard in losses to Watsonville, Carlmont and Menlo.
Coach Vava Marques isn’t panicking, though.
“Our first four games were against very good teams,” he said before a 3-0 home loss to Menlo Dec. 12. “They were very good quality.”
The coach remains confident that his Eagles can contend in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division.
“We should do well – I think we have a pretty good team. We’re very technical, quick and fast,” said Marques, whose squad placed third in the league last season. “We should finish in the middle of the pack and up – from third to first.”
His players are shooting for the top spot.
“They definitely want to win the league,” Marques said, “but they know it’s going to be a fight.”
The De Anza Division regularly ranks among the best leagues in CCS, and this season should be no exception. Defending champion Mountain View is off to a strong start (3-0-1 overall) and Los Gatos – which finished second last year – is also performing well (4-2).
The Eagles played the rival Spartans tough in league last year – losing 1-0, then earning a 1-all tie – and Marques expects them to do so again this season.
“Both Los Altos and Mountain View are good,” he said. “I think it’s the biggest rivalry in the league.”
The Eagles return 10 players from a team that went 9-3-7 overall and lost to Woodside in the opening round of the playoffs. The roster comprises 14 seniors, four juniors and seven sophomores.
“This is the most even team I’ve ever had,” said Marques, in his 15th season as coach. “There’s not one standout – most of them are around the same level.”
Los Altos’ center forwards – senior Sean McLoughlin and sophomore Matt Schoner – have different styles that have both proven effective. Each of them has scored a goal.
“Sean has speed – he’s very fast,” Marques said, “and Matt has strength and possession (skills).”
In the midfield, senior Josh Rivas has impressed the coach.
“He covers lots of space in midfield,” Marques said. “He’s doing a great job as our holding (defensive) midfielder.”
Three other seniors anchor the back line – center backs Ed Sartor and Austin Anaya and left back Ruben Hernandez.
“We’re very solid back there,” Marques said. “I would guess we have two of the top center backs in the league, and Ruben is one of the best left backs we’ve had in a long time.”
The Eagles have a new player in goal. Senior Michael Andris has the unenviable task of replacing Lucas Champenois, the De Anza Division’s reigning Goalkeeper of the Year who is now playing at St. Mary’s College.
“Losing Lucas is the difference this year – he was a very good keeper,” Marques said. “But Michael is playing pretty well.”
Los Altos has several sophomores who bolster the bench, including midfielders Hugo Mollerstedt, Chris Poulsen and Edgar Sanchez.
The young players have bonded well with the older ones, according to Marques, creating the kind of team chemistry the coach desires.
“That’s probably our strength – they get along very well,” he said.
The Eagles are scheduled to resume play in the Homestead Christmas Cup this week before taking time off over the holidays. They then open league against visiting Saratoga 3:30 p.m. Jan. 7.