Estancia High boys’ soccer coach Robert Castellano has confidence that his team will compete well against quality competition this season.
The Eagles remain in the CIF Southern Section’s Division 2 playoff grouping this season, but they will take on a number of playoff teams from the top division.
An early test came right away. Estancia reopened Jim Scott Stadium on Monday following renovations to the turf field, and the Eagles played host to a Division 1 playoff team in their season opener.
Senior midfielder Gerardo Torres’ first-half goal held up for Century, which defeated Estancia 1-0 on Wednesday night in a nonleague match.
Among the Division 1 teams that Estancia will see in nonleague play, Castellano also named Edison and Santa Margarita, which met in the first round of the playoffs last season.
“This is the toughest schedule that I’ve had,” said Castellano, whose team went 15-7-3 overall, placed third in the Orange Coast League at 6-2-2, and beat Huntington Beach in the first round of the playoffs last season before losing to Godinez in the second round. “We have Santa Margarita, El Toro [and] Edison, so a lot of tough teams.
“It will definitely get them ready for league, so if we can get through this schedule, through the preseason, we should be fine.”
Torres scored on the second of back-to-back corner kicks for the Centurions in the 24th minute. Jason Rodriguez sent the ball rolling toward the top of the box. Gonzalo Diaz stepped over the ball, and Torres took a shot that found space underneath the crossbar.
“That play, we actually created it about two years ago,” Torres said. “It’s always worked for us ever since we created that play. This is actually the first time that we tried it this year, and we finished it off.
“That was a very good play. As soon as I saw him hit it from the corner, that was a beautiful ball that he gave me, and as soon as it went off of my foot, I felt it just right, and I knew it was going to go in as soon as I made contact.”
Estancia had its own chances to score. Goalkeeper Jonathan Vazquez, who had five saves for Century in his first start at the varsity level, played his position aggressively.
On a couple of occasions, the Eagles were able to beat him to the ball. Senior midfielder Ludwin Romero did so in the 37th minute. He gave the ball up to Josue Patino, whose airborne shot missed the mark with Vazquez retreating to his goal.
“This is his first year playing varsity, as a senior,” Castellano said of Romero. “He had a hell of a game. He played really well, and he’s been chomping at the bit and wanting to come out. It’s good to see that kid play his heart out tonight.”
Vazquez punched a 26-yard shot from Chris Ayala over the crossbar in the 32nd minute. The resulting corner kick would provide more scoring chances for the Eagles.
Esteban Esquivel took the corner kick, and Romero got the first touch, sending it toward the back post. Hector Garcia had his shot stopped. The ball came free to Romero in the center of the box, but his shot was turned away by the back of Centurions defender Ignacio Navarro.
Vazquez said keeping a clean sheet in his first varsity start was an indescribable feeling, and he thanked his center backs for their contributions.
“I have Victor Orozco as a center back and Misael Lopez, as well,” Vazquez said. “They’re incredible. They’re always there when I slip.”
Estancia has a new starting keeper for the third season in a row. Junior Brandon Lopez got the start on Wednesday, making six saves. Castellano said that freshman Cesar Pedroza is also competing for the starting job.
The Eagles, like many teams at this time, played without a full team. Estancia had five club players miss the match, including senior forward Marcos Arreola, the team’s leading scorer from last season.
Arreola is expected to return to the team on Dec. 16, in time for Estancia’s home match against Newport Harbor on Dec. 18.
“We were working,” Castellano said of his team’s performance in the opener. “The work rate was there. The hunger was there. It’s just the technique and the tactical awareness was still a little short tonight.”
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