Defending boys soccer champs look to repeat

Defending boys soccer champs look to repeat

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Defending boys soccer champs look to repeat

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It doesn’t matter who you are. Or how much talent you have.

For while soccer is beautiful, it is also cruel.

The better team doesn’t always win. The luck of the bounce favors none.

Tucson Salpointe Catholic boys soccer coach Wolfgang Weber knows this well. He has had some of the best teams Arizona has ever seen in his 31 years as coach.

“And you feel every year that you have a chance to win it,” he said of the ultimate goal that is the state title. “But it has only happened for me five times. The other 26 times, things happen.”

Salpointe Catholic, the defending Division II champion, enters the new season, which begins next week, as the favorite to repeat. With 18 returning players from last season’s 25-2-1 title team, Salpointe Catholic has what it takes to win back-to-back championships for the first time since the 1985-1986 seasons. But Weber isn’t penciling in any victory that hasn’t happened yet.

“We always have to be on this path of continuous improvement,” Weber said. “The moment we don’t do that then lies the trouble ahead.”

Salpointe still lost key players to graduation who will be tough to replace, including defender Chase Brennan (who Weber said was one of the best he’s ever coached). And senior midfielder Christian Garcia, a first-team All-State player in Division II last season, will likely be out until mid-to-late January because of a sports hernia.

So while Salpointe is the favorite, it is by no means perfect.

Among the teams waiting to pounce is Tucson Catalina Foothills.

In Division I, defending champion Chandler Hamilton is also pegged this preseason to repeat. Hamilton returns six starters, four of whom earned azcentral sports All-State honors, from last season’s 23-3 title team. And Nick Markette said his team has “good depth” and “a strong winning culture.”

But Hamilton will again be pushed by Phoenix Brophy Prep, who will be without reigning Player of the Year Riggs Lennon (now with the Real Salt Lake-Arizona residency academy in Casa Grande), but still has enough firepower to win. And a slew of talent-filled teams like Tolleson, Phoenix Carl Hayden, Phoenix Maryvale, Gilbert and San Luis.

Division III defending champion Phoenix Cortez isn’t the favorite this year after losing last season’s Small Schools Player of the Year, goalkeeper Jonathan Atencio, and other stars to graduation. But coach Jose Corona can never be counted out.

Scottsdale Coronado, last season’s state runner-up, is the new No.1. A young, dangerous team is now an experienced, dangerous team with nine returning starters.

“Our strength is our goalkeeper (Victor Perez) and the offense,” Coronado coach Mike Tsorin said.

Here comes the “but.”

“The defense needs to step up a bit,” Tsorin said. “And everyone needs to stay healthy.”

Players to watch

Daniel Adoo, So., D, Phoenix Cortez

Marco Aguilar, Jr., F, Phoenix North Canyon

Ricardo Alvarez, Sr., GK, Phoenix Maryvale

Erik Arellano, Sr., F, Glendale Cactus

Paul Astrain, Sr., D, Tempe McClintock

David Ather, Jr., MF, Tucson Palo Verde

Nolan Barth, Sr., D, Chandler Hamilton

Stefan Barzu, Jr., F, Gilbert Christian

Jamal Bechri, Sr., GK, Buckeye Verrado

Hector Berrueta, Sr., MF, Buckeye Verrado

Zach Blomberg, Sr., MF, Chandler Seton Catholic

Ricardo Ceja, Sr., D, Glendale

Cesar Cervantes, Sr., D, Scottsdale Coronado

Christian Chavira, Sr., D, Tucson Catalina

Clarence Clark, Sr., D, Phoenix Brophy Prep

Yabin Cruz, Sr., F, Phoenix South Mountain

Mark Dogbah, Sr., F, Phoenix Greenway

Preston Dolenar, Jr., D, Mesa Red Mountain

Brad Duty, So., MF, Glendale Cactus

Jack Ferguson, Sr., MF, Tucson Catalina Foothills

RIley Fitzgerald, Sr., F, Phoenix Northwest Christian

Jordan Fletcher, Sr., F, Chandler Hamilton

Jacob Fox, Sr., GK, Gilbert Campo Verde

Michael Gallardo, Sr., F, Glendale Ironwood

Christian Garcia, Sr., MF, Tucson Salpointe Catholic

Jesus Garcia, Sr., F, Scottsdale Coronado

Miguel Gonzalez, So., F, Scottsdale Coronado

Ryan Grotjohn, Sr., MF, Phoenix Brophy Prep

Jose Hernandez, So., MF, Phoenix Maryvale

Rodrigo Hernandez, Jr., MF, Glendale Apollo

Derly Herrera, Sr., MF, Queen Creek

Connor Holbert, Sr., D, Phoenix Greenway

T.J. Holt, Sr., F, Tucson Salpointe Catholic

Dennis Hull, Sr., F, Miami

Miguel Ibarra, Sr., F, Queen Creek

Zuberi Idy, Jr., F, Tucson Catalina

Omar Iniguez, Sr., F, Parker

Matthew Kaldawi, Sr., F, Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep

Samuel Kavathas, Sr., GK, Tucson Flowing Wells

Niku Khatami, Jr., GK, Tempe Prep

Josh King, Sr., GK, Tucson Canyon del Oro

Cole Lenderink, Jr., F, Scottsdale Christian

Oswaldo Lopez Ortiz, Jr., MF, Glendale Copper Canyon

Carlos Maldonado, Sr., MF, Wellton Antelope

Luis Manta, Sr., MF, Chandler Hamilton

Benjamin Martinez, Sr., MF, Gilbert Williams Field

Daniel Martinez, Sr., D, Goodyear Estrella Foothills

Danny McDermott, Sr., D, Tucson Catalina Foothills

Aidan McGill, Jr., MF, Anthem Boulder Creek

Jose Mendoza, Sr., D, Avondale La Joya

Daniel Moe, Sr., D, Chandler Basha

Leonardo Moreno, Sr., F, San Luis

Zaid Moreno, Sr., MF, Phoenix Cortez

Arnulfo Navarette, D, Sr., Independence

A.J. Novelli, Jr., MF, Flagstaff Coconino

Tyler Pavlet, Jr., GK, Goodyear Millennium

Lupe Paz, Sr., MF, Yuma Gila Ridge

Victor Perez, Sr., GK, Scottsdale Coronado

Zach Plichta, Sr., F, Chandler Seton Catholic

Alex Ramirez, Jr., F, Glendale Ironwood

Arturo Ramirez, Sr., F, Phoenix Thunderbird

Kevin Reyes, Sr., MF, Tempe

Luis Reynoso, Sr., F, Gilbert Williams Field

Cameron Rivera, Sr., GK, Tucson Catalina Foothills

Jose Rivera, Sr., D, Phoenix Carl Hayden

Mason Robertson, Sr., D/F, Phoenix Pinnacle

Taylor Rumsey, Sr., D, Chandler

Alberto Saavedra, Sr., MF, Avondale Agua Fria

Jeremiah Salinas, Jr., D, Avondale Agua Fria

Canyon Smith, Sr., D, Buckeye

Mario Soto, Jr., D, Tolleson

Carlos Suarez, Sr., MF, Surprise Shadow Ridge

Zach Swain, So., F, Scottsdale Christian

Roberto Valenzuela, Sr., F, Phoenix Cortez

Carlos Valle Paz, Jr., F, Avondale Westview

Arturo Vega, Sr., MF, Tucson Salpointe Catholic

Getamesay Weise, Jr., GK, Tempe Prep

Daniel Wican, Sr., D, Chandler Hamilton

Matt Winkler, Jr., GK, Mesa

Nate Ybarra, Sr., F, Desert Edge

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