By Ed Piper
The vibe around the
La Jolla High SchoolVikings
boys soccer program this season is positive, and all parties involved seem to be happy with the stabilization of the coaching situation with
Joshua Connernearing the end of his first year at the helm, and the progress of the program under his direction.
Reflecting this stability and progress, the Vikings dispatched the visiting
Christian High SchoolPatriots (from El Cajon) handily, 3-0, in a non-league encounter Feb. 13.
George Westscored goals in the first half, while
Edgar Salamancaadded a third in the second half. La Jolla is now 5-7-4 overall, 1-3-2 in the Western League.
James Penner, whom Conner says has been the most consistent player this season, said: “We were trying different formations. We practiced playing balls over the top (versus passes on the ground). We were trying different things to prepare for the Cathedral game (Feb. 19).”
La Jolla started a heavily senior-laden lineup in honor of their last home game at Edwards Stadium.
Eric Artensteinhad a nifty save in goal in the 25th minute. He made another good save in the 27th minute, diving in front of the right post, narrowly preventing the ball from sneaking in the corner of the goal as he sprawled to make the save. The Vikings’ four captains are all seniors:
Accord Mendoza, Salamanca, Chayet and Artenstein.
Chayet, starting as left midfielder, opened up scoring dribbling up from the right side and shooting across into the left half of the net in the 12th minute. West, whom Conner inserted with several others in the 19th minute, followed with his goal in the 26th minute. Virtually the entire roster saw ample minutes of playing time as the coach substituted freely. He seems to have a good rapport with his players.
Commented Mendoza: “We started to play together as a team this year, and I guess we’re getting somewhere now. I try to (get us to) be together, because it’s not 1 vs. 11, it’s 11 vs. 11. I play every position except goalie.”
Highlights during this rebuilding season for La Jolla have been a tie with league-leader St. Augustine High School, 1-1, which they felt they could have won, and a 0-0 draw versus Point Loma High. The Vikings added a win over rival University City High 2-1.
“The team is improving, and the program is starting to have all its needs met,” Conner said. “So we’re just trying to finish off the season strong. Everyone on the team has pulled together. Leadership from the seniors: Accord Mendoza and Edgar Salamanca. Those are probably the key seniors.”
Said Artenstein, a senior, prior to the game: “We look to play a strong defense and possess the ball on offense and connect with teammates to create opportunities in the box.” La Jolla succeeded in this game plan.
Conner pointed out he also coaches a local club team, so that only reinforces his statement that he is staying around. Each of those factors can only make La Jolla stronger.
In the past three years, multiple coaching changes made it difficult for the Vikings to learn one system and move forward.
“This season was definitely a rebuilding year,” Penner said. “We’ve had a pretty good record, better than we’ve had before. Definitely, we’re looking forward to next year. JVs have had a really strong year, and we’re looking to bring in a lot of good players. There have been a lot of very strong juniors on this team, so we’ll have a really strong team next year.
“I’ve played a lot of defense — also a little bit of offense, so I got some time there. Overall (I’ve been working) to improve distributing the ball and winning the ball in the air.”
Up Next:Following their game versus at Cathedral Catholic High, Feb. 19, La Jolla travels to Point Loma Feb. 21, to close out the regular season. Both matches start at 3 p.m.
Starting Line-Up:Coach Conner started several seniors in their last regular season home game. Those listed in the starting line-up are not all seniors.
Back: Cameron Bijan, Carlos Duran, Juan Armando Garcia, Bryan Fierro.
Midfield: Raul Sanchez, Blake Shores, Jesus Ochoa, Chayet.
Forward: Mendoza, Salamanca