If the transition from the El Camino Division to the De Anza Division of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League wasn’t already difficult enough, try making the ascent with a dramatically different squad.
That’s what the Los Altos High boys soccer team, which graduated 13 players last spring, is going through this season.
But the Eagles aren’t just surviving – they’re contending. Although Thursday’s 3-0 loss at Palo Alto dropped Los Altos to 2-2-2 in the daunting De Anza, the team remains in third place.
Longtime coach Vava Marques isn’t all that surprised by the Eagles’ success.
“We moved at the right time, because we have a good team,” he said. “We have an extremely technical team and a lot of depth – that’s the strength of the team. We’re very balanced.”
Team captain Albin Moellerstedt agreed, adding “We have the skills to beat any team in the league.” The senior also pointed to another asset the Eagles possess: chemistry.
“One of the best parts about this team is how well we get along – there are no arguments and fights,” said Moellerstedt, who scored on a penalty kick in last week’s 1-1 tie against Los Gatos. “It’s surprising, because we have a completely different team than last year.”
Last year’s squad didn’t lose a game in the El Camino, yet its 9-0-3 mark wasn’t good enough to finish ahead of Monta Vista (10-1-1). The Eagles still landed the third seed in the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs, but their season came to an unexpected end in the quarterfinals when they fell to No. 11 Alvarez in overtime.
Marques hasn’t completely gotten over that loss.
“We could have done better last year,” he said.
The coach expects his team to return to the playoffs this year, as does Moellerstedt.
“We hope to finish in the top three – hopefully first (in league) – and make CCS and go far in that,” the sweeper said.
Marques was careful not to make any bold declarations about winning league, but he didn’t rule it out, either.
“We’re trying to keep a low profile,” he said. “But if everything goes right, we have a chance.”
A lot has gone right so far. Los Altos has a 5-3-4 record overall, outscoring its opponents 23-14.
Kabir Wagle has been in goal for most of these games. The sophomore is in his first varsity season.
“He’s doing really well,” Marques said of Wagle. “He’s very consistent.”
Los Altos also relies heavily on midfielders Kai Moos and Ollie De Visser, both sophomores, and senior Victor Yu.
“They’re very technical,” the coach said. “They’re good on the ball and have good passing skills.”
Moellerstedt raved about the trio as well, noting that “all three are really strong with the ball.”
Up front, sophomore Harry Allen sets the tone. The forward is among the team’s leading scorers and most relentless players.
“He’s a workaholic,” Marques said. “He’s a guy who never gives up. He’s very tenacious and aggressive.”
Spartans up next
Los Altos is scheduled to host rival Mountain View 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
The teams played to a 2-all tie in their Jan. 12 meeting at Mountain View.
The Spartans subdued Santa Clara 7-1 Jan. 24 and rallied to beat Monta Vista 3-1 Saturday, improving to 3-0-4 in the De Anza (second place) and 7-3-5 overall.
Rohan Sarathy scored one goal against Santa Clara and two versus Monta Vista.