Golden four recognized

For most of the season, the St. Francis High soccer team contended for the Mission League championship. The Golden Knights saw their bid to win the league title fall short during the final match against Loyola.

Having a solid quartet of players handling a variety of responsibilities played a key factor in the Knights taking third in the ultra-competitive league before advancing to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.

For their efforts, Thomas Banks, Matt Laterza, Raphael Menedez and Luca Coppola earned spots on the all-league team. Banks and Laterza were named to the first team, while Menedez and Coppola were selected to the second team.

St. Francis finished 8-9-8 and 6-2-4 in league under Coach Glen Appels.

It marked the second straight season that Banks was named to the first team. Last year, he played midfielder and forward before making the smooth transition to defender this season.

"Our whole defense deserves the award, not just me," said Banks, who finished with one goal and two assists. "It was great to get it last year, but I wanted to try to get back on it while playing defense.

"I'm proud of what I was able to get accomplished."

Laterza, a senior, began the season at midfield before being shifted to forward several matches into the season. Laterza adapted quickly to his new role and led the Golden Knights with 13 goals and six assists for 32 points.

Appels, who has guided the Golden Knights to three CIF Southern Section titles and one Southern California Regional Championship, said Laterza provided an immediate spark offensively for the Golden Knights.

"He became our most potent offensive player," Appels said. "We had him start off in the midfield, but we found out that he could be more effective up front.

"Our season changed when we moved him up there and he was a terrific player."

Menedez, a senior defender, and Coppola, a junior goalkeeper, helped tow the line deep in St. Francis' territory throughout the season.

While Menedez didn't score any points, he proved to be a staple on St. Francis' defensive unit by showing his versatility.

"We moved him around quite a bit," Appels said. "I think he came on real strong during league and he was always consistent for us on defense."

Coppola finished with four shutouts.

Appels said Coppola was often called on to make several big saves per match.

"He came back from an injury that he got last year," Appels said. "This season, he had the ability to win a lot of balls that were in the air.

"He was able to get to a lot of the high balls."

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