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Moving on up

Mike Sciacca

Andy Thomas says he’s excited about the prospects for his Laguna

Beach High boys’ soccer team in the 2002-03 season, which launched

this week.

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But his excitement is tinged with a bit of reserve, as his

defending CIF Southern Section Division V championship program

debuted Monday as a Division II school -- a jump of three divisions.

“Being bumped up to Division II will be a tough road, but we have

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the potential to be a very good team once again,” Thomas said. “We’ve

always played nonleague games against teams in divisions higher than

us, so this move, really, is nothing new. We just need to secure our

place in the division and show that we belong.”

Laguna Beach will try to do so with a seasoned squad that, last

winter, won the school’s third CIF title in six years.

All have come under the direction of Thomas, who begins year No. 7

with a squad 18-members strong.

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Among that group are three key returning starters and a slew of

other talented players ready to contribute.

A trio of leaders are returning All-Pacific Coast League

performers: senior captain Scott Youngstead, senior defender Ben

Jennet and junior forward Pablo Hernandez.

Adding punch to the Breakers’ lineup will come from senior

leadership provided by Chris Stansbury, last year’s backup

goalkeeper, and mid-fielders Alexis Vivar, Hunter Wells and Tyler

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Starow.

Thomas said the team also will get a lift from junior Nick

Kohlscrieber, a transfer from Texas, and a pair of freshmen, defender

Stuart Thompson and halfback/mid-fielder Derek LeBon.

“We have some great senior leadership and some younger players who

have stepped in and added to our program,” said Thomas, whose team

opened the season this week with home matches against Savanna and

Magnolia, and who take on Irvine on the road on Monday.

Laguna Beach downed Savanna, 3-1, in last Monday’s season opener.

“I saw some great things from our guys out there on Monday,”

Thomas said. “I think, basically, that if we keep up the hard work we

will do well. Staying injury-free will also be a key to our success

this season.”

In six previous seasons under Thomas, Laguna Beach has compiled an

overall record of 73-52-17.

He led the program to its first-ever CIF title at the conclusion

of the 1996-97 season, then the school repeated as co-champion in

1997-98.

This year, Laguna Beach will be looking to reach the CIF playoffs

for the eighth time in the past nine, while eyeing its first league

title since Thomas guided the school to the crown in his first

season.

“I’m really excited about this team and its potential, he added.

“It’s just a matter, now, of going out there and getting the job

done. I think we will fit in quite well in Division II.”

* MIKE SCIACCA covers sports for the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot.

He can be reached at 494-4321 or by e-mail at

michael.sciacca@latimes.com.


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