The postseason is hardly a foregone conclusion for most of the area boys soccer teams, but the tide might be turning.
Mesa is the top program and the Jackrabbits are the closest thing to a qualifier, but the Jackrabbits have those down seasons occasionally.
That certainly doesn’t look to be the case this season as Mesa returns the East Valley Region player of the year in Moises Durazo and plenty of talent around him.
An unlucky draw based on a weaker strength of schedule had the Jackrabbits face the eventual champ – Gilbert – in the second round and they lost 1-0.
“Coming off a tough loss to the state champ, the team is eager to show our program is one of the best in the state,” long-time coach T.J. Hagen said.
The rest of the teams have optimistic outlooks for the most part with Desert Ridge looking to make program history.
“Desert Ridge has set a goal of making the state playoffs for the first time in school history,” Jaguars coach Andrew Clarke said. “It will be a tough road, but this group has the talent and experience to do it.”
Skyline is taking a similar approach, knowing it is going to take a great effort throughout the season to make the 16-team 6A Conference state tournament.
“If we focus on having a complete game every game,” Coyotes coach Derek Otton said, “the outlook for the end of the year is that we qualify for state with a home game and have a chance to compete at the highest tournament in Arizona.”
It all starts this week and here is how each team looks heading into the season:
Coach: Andrew Clarke, six years
Last year’s record: 6-11-3
Record last 10 years: 52-79-10
Top players: Branson DeWitt, Sr., D, Matt Shaw, Sr., F, Ed Ortega, Sr., MF.
Tournaments: Hopps/Solis Cactus Cup (Nov. 30/Dec. 1) at Desert Ridge, Chandler Prep Invite (Jan. 5-6)
Comment/notes: DeWitt was a first-team all-district pick last season, while Shaw earned second team. … A couple of younger players expected to make an impact are sophomore midfielder Mark Gomez and sophomore forward Nikola Serdar. …. Shaw had seven goals last season and Serdar added five. … “This team has a great mix of senior leadership and strong young players.” … The Jaguars host Desert Ridge on Monday to open the year.
Coach: Jason Berg, eighth year
Last year’s record: 9-9-1
Record last 10 years: 72-95-8
Top players: Rafael Blanco, Sr., Andres Zarate, Sr., Erick Pina, Sr., D
Tournaments: Coyote Classic (Dec. 2, 4, 6-7) at Williams Field; Mustang Classic (Dec. 26-29).
Comment/notes: The Mustangs have the potential to be one of the top teams in the region again after finishing tied for second last year. … Blanco had 10 goals and six assists to earn all-region first-team honors, while Zarate had five goals and two assists to make second team. … Pina moves from goalie where he was honorable mention all-region to defender. … The Mustangs lose their last two matches to keep them out of the postseason. … Dobson opens the season at Basha on Tuesday.
Coach: T.J. Hagen, 22nd year
Last year’s record: 14-7-1
Record last 10 years: 120-79
Top players: Moises Durazo, Sr., MF/F, Daniel Peralta, Sr., G; Ivan Chaparrao, Sr., D.
Tournaments: Coyote Classic at Campo Verde (Dec. 2, 4-5, 7)
Comment/notes: Mesa lost eight starters from last year’s state quarterfinals team. … Durazo was the East Valley Region player of the year last season after nine goals and 10 assists. … Peralta was named the top goalie in the region after allowing 0.806 goals a game. … Chaparrao is a team captain along with Durazo and Peralta. … Senior forward/midfielder Jesus Valenzuela is transfer who will be a nice combo with Durazo … Hagen’s record is 240-156-20. … The Jackrabbits open the season at Sandra Day O’Connor on Tuesday.
Coach: Mike Tsorin, second
Last year’s record: 2-8-2
Record last 10 years: 56-80-12
Top players: Chase Hughes, Sr., G; Connor Rosenbaum, Sr., MF;
Tournaments: Coyote Classic (Dec. 2, 5-6) at Williams Field.
Comment/notes: Hughes and Rosenbaum were second-team all-region picks. … Mountain View is looking for its first winnings season in at least six years. … Toros open the season at Mountain Pointe on Tuesday. … Tsorin took Coronado to back-to-back state title berths in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and finished runner-up both times.
Coach: Mike Miller, fifth season
Last year’s record: 7-8-2
Record last 10 years: 68-86-8
Top players: Luka Zivkovic, Jr., F; Ryan Metera, Sr., D; Dylan Stimac, Soph., MF;
Tournament: Mustang Soccer Classic (Dec. 26-29) at Dobson
Comment/notes: Zivkovic was named East Valley region offensive player of the year after having 16 goals and seven assists in 14 games. … Metera was a second-team all-region picks, while Stimac was an honorable mention selection. … Red Mountain hasn’t had a winning season since 2012-13. … Open the season Dec. 12 by hosting Westview.
Coaches: Derek Otton, Julio Becerra
Last year’s record: 4-8
Record last 10 years: 26-106-6
Top players: Alfonso Torres, Andy Rangel, James Campuzano, Ethan Howard.
Tournaments: Hopp/Solis Cactus Cup Soccer Tournament (Nov. 30-Dec. 1) at Desert Ridge; Chandler Prep Invite (Jan. 5-6) at Red Mountain Complex.
Comment/notes: Otton believes the team will be stronger and possessing the ball compared to years past. … Torres is the school leader in career goals. … Campuzano was a first-team All-East Valley Region pick. … The Coyotes host Chandler on Tuesday to open the season.
Coach: Ryan Corea, first year
Last year’s record: 8-6
Record last 10 years: 51-75-4
Top players: Alejandro Gomez, Sr., F; Oscar Nieblas, Sr., F.
Tournaments: Coyote Classic Tournament Dec. 2, 4-5, 7) at Williams Field,
Comment/notes: Ladislav Zbozinek began his second year as the coach, but a change was made in early November to Corea, who was the coach at Carson Junior High last season. … Gomez was a first-team All-East Valley selection, whole Nieblas was honorable mention. The Warriors have had three straight non-losing seasons including two straight winning campaigns. Not bad considering an 0-11-1 season (according to MaxPreps) in 2012-13. … The Warriors first match is Tuesday at home against Millennium.
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.