Lasers shooting for the top

Player turnover is fast and furious at the junior college level, but Irvine Valley College men's soccer Coach Martin McGrogan doesn't seem to accept the notion of a "rebuilding" year.

McGrogan was the program's first coach in 1990, and since then the team has had just three losing seasons, winning one national title and two state titles and was runner-up in the state once. McGrogan, though, deflects praise and gives thanks to the athletes in the Irvine and surrounding areas.

"We've been really lucky the past 20 years, we've been fairly consistent," he said. "Before coming here I was at Corona del Mar, so I've been in the area a long while. The Orange Empire Conference — with soccer, volleyball, baseball — there's so many talented athletes. And a lot of them go on to four-year schools, so we've done fairly well."

McGrogan believes this year's team will continue the trend coming off the performance of last year's team, which went 15-5-2 overall, finished second in conference and reached the second round of the CCCAA Southern California Regionals before losing to nemesis Santa Ana.

Santa Ana also beat IVC in the final conference game of the season, which decided the conference title. Santa Ana will again be a force in league, but McGrogan says his team is ready for it.

"You have to respect Santa Ana," McGrogan said. "It's a big school, they have a lot of players to choose from, and they have a talented coach. Historically, they've always been good and this will be no different than any other year.

"We certainly respect them, but we don't fear them."

The Lasers are returning five starters from last year, including midfielder Robert Hernandez, defender Sean Murphy, forward Fredy Razo, defender Joshua Ruiz and defender Martin Licea.

"I'm happy with our squad," McGrogan said. "We definitely have talented players. Razo scored (26) goals last year. A lot of people will look to him. Sean Murphy is a strong defensive player. Josh (Ruiz) clamps down on opposing teams' forwards. And we have Brandon Mulhall. He was our MVP two years ago and he's back with us."

Among their incoming freshmen, the Lasers have Tyler Ortega from Woodbridge High.

While McGrogan certainly will add to his career win total of more than 250 victories at IVC, he said the program's goal remains aimed at advancing the student-athletes academically and athletically.

"I think people expect us to do well," McGrogan said. "We may not always win conference, but I know our players academically and soccer-wise will be ready for the next level. We have four kids who are at Concordia, and others who are at other four-year schools.

"We try to help them with the path they are on. If they want to play professionally, we try to help them with that, and we have some that are doing it. If they want to go on to a four-year school and maybe go to medical school, we try to help them with that too. There's a misconception that kids at a JC are not bright. They are."

The Lasers begin the season Tuesday at Moorpark and open their home schedule Sept. 14 vs. Rio Hondo. The Orange Empire Conference season will start on Sept. 27 at Riverside, and the first home conference game will be Sept. 30 vs. Fullerton.


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