For the past six years, the Vanguard Men’s Soccer team has had a dominating presence in the Golden State Athletic Conference with three GSAC Conferences, three GSAC tournament championships and four National Tournament appearances. Currently, the team is preparing to start the regular season. These Lions just wrapped up somewhat of an anticlimactic preseason with a record of three wins, one loss, and four ties after being ranked to finish first in the pre-season GSAC coaches poll.
The most impressive aspect of the team this season has been the defensive group who have been influenced by the new rookie Lions. These two players: center back sophomores Cooper Clark and Slater Hammer, have shown great promise as becoming the new core of the Lions defense and have earned the majority of the starting positions so far. Now playing in front of goalkeeper Edwin Monterrosa and in-between seniors Joseph Hernandez and Christopher Sanchez, the sophomore duo have fit in well and have been a major contribution to the Lions current record.
I spoke with Hernandez about how he feels the new additions to the back line have influenced their playing style and defensive agenda.
He stated that, “they definitely have some big shoes to fill since our main center backs left, but with our new additions, I think we can become a solid back line. In terms of defensive style, I think our plan is still the same: work hard for one another and do our job.”
With only two wins going into the first GSAC match in Santa Clarita at Masters University, the Lions brought home a 1-0 win. There were many encouraging signs in the match as our players kept the Masters team from finding any sort of rhythm. Freshman Sidney Dina scored the one and only goal of the match making it his first in his collegiate career.
I asked Hernandez what he believes is an area that the team needs to improve in order to win GSAC.
Hernandez explained that, “it is important that we continue to get better each and every day. Defense is what really wins games. If we stay focused and raise the intensity going into GSAC, I think we’ll be just fine. We need to make sure we stay disciplined throughout all of our games and clean up simple mistakes that can hurt us.”
The Lions have been known to have good chemistry within the team that bonds them together on and off the field. That same chemistry hasn’t revealed itself on the field this year.
Team Captain Markus Garcia expressed what the team’s biggest challenges are going forward in GSAC. “Knowing that we are struggling to put points on the scoreboard can ultimately cause the team to divide and bicker at each other — which has been the case here and there. As long as we continue to stay together to reach the goals we’ve set before returning this year, we most definitely will be able to get our three-peat before closing out the NAIA and moving to NCAA division two.”
With the team’s struggle to find the back of net and to win matches, I asked Garcia what he thought the team’s biggest weakness is and what the team is doing to improve themselves moving forward. “The biggest weakness we have as a team is being able to execute in the final third. This weakness has kept us from surpassing opponents as well as being [nationally] ranked as we move on in the season. As we continue to move forward, taking the extra time [to progress] and encourage our teammates instead of tearing them down is our [resolution] towards this matter.”
This will be Coach Jesus “Chuy” Miramontes’ second year as head coach. Since the replacement of Coach Randy Dodge, Miramontes led the Lions to last year’s GASAC tournament championship. This year, co-chairs added 13 new players to the roster after losing almost half of last year’s squad.
With 13 new faces on the roster, the team has big expectations as always and are going to need to continue building chemistry in the team and establish a foundation for a style of play that could lead the team to another national tournament appearance.
You can attend the Lions’ next match where they will attempt to remain undefeated in
GSAC. This match will be hosting Stanton University this Saturday Sept. 30, at 4 p.m. For match updates and more info follow @vu_msoc on Instagram or visit the team’s official website https://vanguardlions.com/sports/mens-soccer.