Burroughs boys' soccer looks to repeat in Pacific League

The local field of boys' soccer teams has been reduced by one, as Bellarmine-Jefferson High will not field a team this season.

However, for the other three teams, Burroughs, Burbank and Providence, they all have their share of talented players who they hope will lead them to success.

The Indians are coming off a season in which they captured a Pacific League championship and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinals.

Providence had a successful 2012-13 campaign as well. In fact, it was historic. The Pioneers clinched the program's first Liberty League title. However, the team couldn't keep the momentum going in the postseason, losing in the first round.

The Bulldogs didn't qualify for the playoff a year ago, finishing sixth in the Pacific League.

With the season beginning this week, here is a closer look at the teams.

BURROUGHS

Although the Indians (15-7-3 last season) lost three All-CIF Southern Section players to graduation, the team still has its share of talented players returning.

"We are really fortunate when you look at it," Burroughs Coach Mike Kodama said. "We did lose three guys who were All-CIF, but we will have two returning players who were All-CIF last year. It's not often you get an All-CIF guy who returns, but to have two is really great.

"In addition to that we have a lot of guys back from last year's championship team, so we look pretty good."

The biggest loss to graduation for Burroughs was senior midfielder Brian Arzate, who along with earning All-CIF Division III first-team honors, was also the league's player of the year. The other All-CIF players who moved on were senior midfielder Manny Celio, also a first-team honoree, and senior forward Jorman Herrera, who made the second team.

However, returning for the Indians are senior midfielder Michael Conrad and senior midfielder/forward Brandon Gerlach, who were All-CIF third-team selections. Gerlach was second on the team with nine goals, but paced Burroughs with 16 assists, and Conrad had one goal and four assists.

"To have two guys like that back I think speaks well for us," said Kodama, who was named the league's coach of the year last season. "I think we return seven starters from last year, so most of the team returns. That is something we feel fortunate about. We expect those two guys to be right in the middle of the team and we expect them to step up into leadership roles for us."

Last season, after claiming the Pacific League title, Burroughs won its opening match of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs, defeating Anaheim, 4-3, at home before downing host Redlands East Valley, 2-1, in the second round. Unfortunately for the Indians, their season ended in the quarterfinals with a 4-3 loss in overtime at third-seeded Palmdale.

Although a lengthy playoff run is something Kodama said his team would like to accomplish, defending its league championship is paramount. Under Kodama, Burroughs has won eight league titles in the Foothill League and Pacific League in the coach's 24 years with the program.

"They are well aware of the history of the program and our history with winning league titles," said Kodama, whose squad won its first title since 2009 last season. "It's nice because we have a lot of former players who have come back to help out the program and the current players are always reminded by them of our past success. They know what it's like and what it takes to be successful.

"But when you win league everyone wants to knock you off, so we have to be ready every league game."

Players who Kodama expects big things from include senior forward Milosh Petko (seven goals last season), senior midfielder Nolberto Alcantar, junior midfielder Andrew Aguilar, junior defensive midfielder VJ Salazar, senior defense Nick Nicholas, senior defense Eddie Tapia and newcomer junior forward Ashot Veisyan.

"We have a lot more depth than last year, so hopefully we can shuffle around the positions a bit," Kodama said.

The leading candidate for the starting goalkeeper position is senior Alberto Mier, a field player last year whom Kodama said will get first crack at the job.

PROVIDENCE

Although the Pioneers (6-3-4) are coming off a season in which they won a Liberty League crown with a 4-0-4 record, the team lost its three best players to graduation.

The biggest loss was center midfielder Sarkis Shaginian. Along with being named the Liberty League Player of the Year, Shaginian, who is playing at the University of Seattle, paced the team with 13 goals. Also lost to graduation were first-team all-league players Anto Boghokian and Keerati Asawalapsakun.

"This program has taken some very big steps the last few years and we have had some very good players who have helped us turn the corner," Providence Coach Kordo Doski said. "But we lost some of those players from last year and hopefully we have some young players who will be willing to step up. But we have only two starters who played big parts on our team last year and most of the other players were complimentary players last year.

"But we are going to have to develop some other players if we hope to be successful. I'm hoping some of the players who had lesser roles last season will be willing to step up this season. But I do think we have a lot of project players."

Among the returners are junior sweeper Richard Vesagas and junior center midfielder Steven Valeda. Valeda was an all-league selection last season and tallied four goals.

In goal will be junior Gevork Arabyan.

Although defending their league title might be a stretch this season for the Pioneers, Doski is expecting good things from his squad.

"We have some good character kids who are willing to put in the work to get better," he said. "There were some teams that overachieved last year, so we are hoping that we can do the same this year. It is just a matter of us building up the players who we do have.

"I think if we could make the playoffs this year it would be a huge, huge accomplishment for us."

BURBANK

Like Providence, the Bulldogs lost their three all-league players from last season — forward Dennis Palacio (10 goals, three assists), midfielder Christian Garcia (11 assists) and defender Josue Gonzalez — for a team that went 5-6-3 in league.

"We did lose a lot of seniors from last year and I know it sounds like a cliche but it's going to be a rebuilding year for us," Burbank Coach Loi Phan said. "But we will just try and build the best team that we can so we are able to compete, just like we do every year.

"We have a lot of young players on the team and they have been practicing hard. It's just going to take some time for us to come together and mesh as a team. But once we do that I think we'll be alright."

Two key returners who Phan will rely on are senior defender Raymond Shidler and senior midfielder Christopher Mazzi.

"Raymond has been there for three years on defense for us so he's pretty solid back there," Phan said. "He will be our main guy on defense. And Chris is just a solid player. But that will be the main seniors we are going to have to rely on. That's how young we are as a team. The rest of the team is going to be a lot of freshmen and sophomores.

"I like what I have with the young guys. That's what's nice about having a young team, they are eager to get playing time and they will give it their all."

Another key returner is sophomore Andrew Hank, who will be the starting goalkeeper.

Other promising players include junior defense Chris Wong, sophomore defender/stopper Patrick Lance, freshman forward Kenneth Rovira, sophomore forward Noah Powell, sophomore midfielder Fernando Chavez and freshman midfielder Omar Ibnoujala.

"We are just hoping to be able to make the playoffs this season," Phan said. "I think we can do that. It's just the Pacific League has been so tight the past few years it seems like everybody beats everybody and you never know."

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