|Rancho set for soccer opener
The Rancho Cotate boys’ soccer team is looking to set the tone for this year’s season in tonight’s opening home game against El Molino of Forestville.
According to head coach Eamon Kelly, the Lions, once thought of as an easy win for opponents, have made major strides in recent years. The Cougars eked out a 1-0 victory over El Molino last year, and Kelly is preparing for another hard-fought contest.
“I know the coach at El Molino and he’s done a great job, so we’re not expecting anything different from last season,” Kelly said.
Kickoff is at 6 p.m.
Despite losing two standout players to graduation in Roy Boateng and Joshua Belda (playing college soccer at UC Davis and Chico State, respectively), Kelly believes this current Rancho Cotate squad brings more experience to the field than in previous years.
“Normally we rely on at least three freshmen to fill major positions, but this year our strength lies in our juniors,” Kelly said.
Topping the list of juniors is Guillermo Irizarry, Kevin Juarez, Juan Diaz and Jose Amador. Goalie Danny Ortiz will be relied upon to provide senior leadership as the final line of defense. Other seniors expected to contribute are Kevin Nguyen, Edmar Quintas and Allan Gomez. Look for sophomore Kevin Bobadilla also to play a significant role for the Cougars.
Kelly has headed the RC boys soccer team for 20 years now, and with the help of assistant coach Eric Magnuson, he’s managed to lead the Cougars to the playoffs in four consecutive seasons.
A skilled player himself, Kelly transitioned into coaching to give his son an opportunity to compete at the high school level during a time when Rancho soccer’s program lacked a coach. Since then, he’s laid a strong foundation for their program and hasn’t looked back since.
This season, the Cougars will face their share of challenges, including matchups against North Bay League contenders Casa Grande and Montgomery. However, with a promising new team and four consecutive years of playoff appearances, it’s safe for Rancho to expect another appearance in the postseason.
But after being eliminated in the first round of playoffs four seasons in a row, this year’s team is eager to break what’s beginning to seem like a curse.
“We’ve made the playoffs the last four years so we have the talent,” Kelly said. “We just have to make it past the first round this time.”
This year’s team may possess enough speed and finesse to make it past the first round of the playoffs and beyond.