Vasquez earns his keep

Vasquez earns his keep

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Vasquez earns his keep

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When Alisal High senior Lorenzo Vasquez runs out to midfield before taking part in 80 minutes of non-stop action, he’s got just one thing on his mind.

“You’ve always got to be No. 1,” Vasquez recites the quote. “It’s the best quote I’ve ever heard.”

The 17-year-old has seen those words in action all of his life as he has passionately followed in his father’s footsteps. Vasquez’s father, who is also named Lorenzo, has earned a superstar-like status for his play in Salinas recreational soccer leagues over the past 20 years.

Instead of wilting under the pressure to live up to his father’s greatness, Vasquez took it upon himself to steadily become a terrific high school soccer player and show his father he is mentally and physically strong enough to be No. 1.

“My main focus was making my dad proud,” Vasquez said. “He’s a big soccer star in Salinas and I really wanted to show him what I could accomplish.”

In his second varsity season, Vasquez had the type of year that would thrill any parent. Playing midfield and forward for the Trojans, Vasquez led the team in both goals (22) and assists (13).

Even more, he was playing his best soccer at the end of the season, leading the Trojans to the Central Coast Section Division I title. Counting the final regular season match — in which he scored four goals against Gilroy — and the playoffs, Vasquez accounted for six goals and three assists.

“When we got to CCS it was about playing hard and leaving it all on the field,” Vasquez said. “I lifted my level of play and we accomplished the goal of winning CCS.”

In winning their second CCS title in four years, Alisal finished with a record of 19-0-4 and extended its unbeaten streak to 52 matches.

“He is just absolutely focused,” said Alisal coach Mark Cisneros after his team’s 3-1 CCS-clinching win over Bellarmine Prep on March 3. “He was focused this year and especially in the CCS playoffs. His drive, his courage and his will has really lifted us. The guys have really looked to him as a leader in the last couple games. I’m just really happy with Lorenzo’s performance.”

Vasquez closed the season by being selected the Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division’s Most Valuable Year, and is this year’s Salinas Californian’s Player of the Year.

“It was an amazing season,” he said.

Mission accomplished

Vasquez didn’t have any grand ideas of what individual goals he wanted to achieve in his senior year. To him the focus was unifying this group right away.

Eliminating drama and the possibility of a splintered team were essential.

“To be honest I wanted the team to come together — that was the first mission,” Vasquez said.

The togetherness and work ethic quickly became a hallmark of the 2012-13 Trojan team. As the unbeaten season churned on, winning a CCS title was not far-fetched.

“I wanted to help the team win league and as the season went along I felt we could really do this,” Vasquez said. “This team has the potential to win this, and we went out and had a great CCS.”

Pushing to new limits

Vasquez said he began to prepare himself for his senior season as soon as the junior season came to an end. The loss on penalty kicks in the 2011-12 playoffs were motivation enough.

“I worked in the gym and worked hard with a personal trainer and pushed myself to the limit,” Vasquez said. “My frame of mind is that there isn’t going to be a player that’s better than me.”

Vasquez, who had already demonstrated fantastic footwork, added another dangerous element to his arsenal — a long accurate shot.

The senior grew more and more confident with creating space and letting shots fly with precision.

“Actually this year was the first time I found out I had a good shot,” he said. “My personal trainer told me to just get a yard and shoot. The first time I did it, I tied up the game. It was a great feeling. I just kept training and did repetitions every day to work on the accuracy.”

Vasquez said he is strongly considering taking his game to Hartnell College next fall, giving him more opportunities to become that No. 1 player.

“Soccer is in my blood,” Vasquez said. “It’s my passion. It’s the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I thing about before I go to sleep. It’s my life.”

Top of their game

The All-County team is selected by The Salinas Californian sports staff. Players are selected based on their performances throughout the season and league honors.

* Jordan Jones, Pacific Grove, Forward: The junior led the area in goals with 28 and posted three three-goal games. Jones is in the process of graduating high school next December and enrolling at Oregon State University in the spring. Jones was the Mission Trail Athletic League’s co-MVP.

* Michael Sanchez, Soledad, Forward: This speedster up top earned a share of the MTAL’s top individual honor by tallying 23 goals for the two-time defending league champion Aztecs. The junior, already a two-time MTAL first-team player, had five games of three goals or more.

* Pedro Virgen, Alvarez, Forward: Another strong attacking player, Virgen led the MBL Pacific Division champoins with 22 goals. The next highest player had just four. In three games against MBL Gabilan teams, the junior scored three combined goals.

* Patricio Nolasco, Salinas, Midfielder/Forward: The senior stepped up when other key veterans were battling injuries, helping the Cowboys reach the postseason. Nolasco, an MBL Gabilan first-team player, led Salinas with 10 goals and also had four assists. He scored a goal in the Cowboys’ final four regular season matches.

* Ramon Perez, North Monterey County, Midfielder: Perez followed up a stellar junior campaign by leading the Condors in assists with six and also scoring two goals. A great decision-maker and a big asset on set pieces, the senior was named an all-league, first-team performer for the second straight year.

* Willy Miranda, Alisal, Midfielder: Miranda’s goals were down from last year, but his effort and spirit were even higher in his junior season. Miranda finished the year with 11 goals (second on the team) and eight assists (third on the team) and was tabbed an all-league first-teamer for a second straight year.

* Danny Pulido, Alisal, Defender: What Pulido lacks in stature, he makes up for with speed, guts and a whole lot of heart. Pulido, an MBL Gabilan all-league first team pick, was the Trojans’ most heralded defender, but also saw time in the midfield and at forward. He finished the season with four goals and five assists.

* Ramon Medina, North Monterey County, Defender: Medina stepped up in his senior season, performing at his highest level when his team needed it the most. Medina stepped up to shore up the Condor defense after a great junior season at midfield. His efforts this year didn’t go unnoticed, as he was named an all-league, first-team performer for the first time in his three varsity seasons.

* Adrian Miguel, Seaside, Defender: The senior isn’t afraid to stick his nose into anybody’s business. Miguel, a four-year varsity player, plays under control and hardly finds himself out of position. He was the Spartans’ only player to make all-league, first team in the MBL Gabilan.

* Ruben Ruiz, Salinas, Defender: The senior excelled in the last defender role for the Cowboys in his only varsity season. Ruiz, a second-team MBL Gabilan player, was a big reason why Salinas played in a lot of close contests. He also popped in two goals and had one assist.

* Eddie Martinez, Alvarez, Goalkeeper: Martinez picked up where he left off last season, solidifying himself as the toughest-to-score-against keeper in the area. The senior played behind a stout defense, but he proved his worth on the big stage. The MBL Pacific all-league first teamer had an incredible 13 saves in a CCS semifinal match with Alisal in front of a crowd of more than 2,000 people.

* Mark Cisneros, Alisal, Coach of the Year: Cisneros got the most out of this scrappy, hard-working team by earning the program’s second CCS title in four years. The fifth-year coach kept this team hungry during the season and got them to elevate their intensity in the playoffs — something often preached, but not always executed. Alisal’s 52-match unbeaten streak remains intact going into 2013-14.

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