Eagles overcome injuries & inexperience to start season strong

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High soccer player Luke Wangsness attempts to corral the ball.

Coach Vava Marques views his Los Altos High boys soccer team as a work in progress. That work has been slowed by injuries, yet the Eagles continue to look like playoff contenders.

“We’re still getting better, which is a good thing,” said Marques, whose team is off to a 5-2-2 start. “I see a lot of potential, for sure.”

Although Los Altos has 14 seniors, most of them were reserves last season. The Eagles made the playoffs behind a solid senior class – which included all-leaguers Albin Moellerstedt and Victor Yu – and the support of talented underclassmen like Coby Zorn, Ollie De Visser, Harry Allen and Kai Moos.

“We had better chemistry on the field last year,” said Marques, who guided Los Altos to a fourth-place finish in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division and a 10-7-3 overall record that included a first-round exit from the Central Coast Section playoffs. “This year, we have a lot of new players and we’re still learning to play together.”

The onslaught of injuries hasn’t helped the cause. As De Visser returned from injury last week against Palo Alto, Marques said three more players got hurt in the league game – including goalie Emilio Rios Sandoval. In addition, Luke Wangsness competed with a soft cast on his left hand and Zorn played through an injury as well, according to the coach.

Despite all that, Los Altos played Palo Alto to a scoreless tie until late in the second half when the host Vikings scored back-to-back goals Jan. 10.

“We had chances, and it was pretty much even until the end, when they capitalized on their chances,” Marques said of the 2-0 defeat. “It was a battle, but they got the best of us. They seemed to want it more than we did, so credit to them.”

The loss dropped Los Altos to second place in the De Anza Division at 2-1. The Eagles opened league Jan. 3 by beating host Mountain View 2-1 – with Ivan Amaya scoring the decisive goal in the closing minutes – then blanked visiting Fremont 2-0 later that week.

Mountain View coach Jim McGuirk was impressed with how Los Altos played against his team, calling the rival Eagles “one of the league favorites this year.”

While flattered by the compliment, Marques wasn’t ready to anoint his team a favorite.

“I think all seven teams are even,” he said. “The league is very balanced – there’s not a bad team.”

However, the Eagles’ 20-year coach anticipates his team doing well enough to qualify for the playoffs.

“It’s hard to tell, but I think we’re going to make CCS,” Marques said. “Nothing’s for sure, but I think we’re strong enough.”

Los Altos’ biggest strength, according to the coach, is that the team “is very technical.” That enables the Eagles to control the time of possession, Marques added.

Attacking midfielder De Visser and center midfielder Max Weirauch, a junior and senior, respectively, are the team’s top scorers.

Marques said senior center fullbacks Wangsness and Zorn (an all-leaguer last year) anchor the defense, and Rios Sandoval “has been a very good keeper.”

Jimmy Dessouki is the lone freshman on the squad. Currently a reserve fullback, Marques envisions Dessouki playing as an outside midfielder down the line.

“He’s the future for Los Altos,” the coach said.

The Eagles’ more immediate future includes hosting Santa Clara today and visiting Homestead Friday. Both league games are slated to start at 3:30 p.m.

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