By Lucas Almeida
Coming off an exhausting period of practice over the summer, this season City College’s Men’s soccer team has one goal in mind and one goal only — to win the state championship.
Head coach Adam Lucarelli pushed his players really hard during this summer by holding two practices a day to make sure all the players reached a high level of fitness and commitment.
“I think the guys are a little tired, banged up and sore because we’ve been working hard but I think we are a little bit better, a little bit far ahead than we were last year at this time,” Lucarelli said. “I think the guys are a little bit more prepared and the fact that we returned a lot of sophomores, they kind of know what to expect.”
The Rams still carry bitter memories from last year’s season, when they fell short against three-time back-to-back state champions Mt. San Antonio 2-0 in the final-four of state playoffs.
The Rams finished the season with a (19-5-1) overall record and the Coast Conference North Division championship (11-2-1).
Even though last year’s season did not end the way Lucarelli planned, 2011 was the Rams’ best season and the first ever appearance in state semifinals, where they were only one game away of taking the trophy home.
Lucarelli said this year, his coaching staff, the players and himself are focused on winning the state championship.
“That’s the goal of this team. If we don’t win the state championship it will be a disappointment and failure for us giving the fact of what we did last year,” Lucarelli said. “That’s all we talk about. We don’t talk about winning the conference championship and making it to the playoffs, we talk about only winning the state championship and I think we are one of the teams that can do it.”
For the coming season, key returning players include starting goalkeeper Kevin Gonzalez, who finished third in the state allowing just five goals all season, forward Arnulfo Garcia who scored eight goals and two assists, forward Juan Miguel Perez who finished the season with five goals and three assists and midfielder Alfredo Castaneda with four goals and four assists.
Appointed by Lucarelli as a solid player in the midfield and now a more mature college athlete and student, Castaneda said this team is more experienced than last year’s and has solid players in all positions and excellent team chemistry.
Although every year many key players come and go, Lucarelli and his coaching staff know summer is the perfect time to recruit new players.
“(We) the coaching staff put a lot of emphasis in recruiting off season, so when our season ends it doesn’t mean the work ends, it actually increases because we are recruiting, we are going to high school games, we are going to tournaments,” he said.
Freshman forward Johnny Rojas is one of those recruits and comes from Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory to strengthen the Rams’ offense.
Rojas scored a total of 22 goals overall and 15 in the West Catholic Athletic League while playing for Sacred Heart.
Francis Lopez is another freshman recruit who played for the Bay Area Ambassadors, a semi-pro soccer club in the East Bay. Lopez also brings international experience, and has played in El Salvador and Argentina.
The Rams will host their first home game facing Evergreen Valley on September 21st. Kickoff starts at 3pm.