Men's Soccer Title Up for Grabs

Photo compliments of Wes McCurtis
Photo compliments of Wes McCurtis

Looking through the standings prior to the start of Orange Empire Conference play, there is one thing that is certain … and that is … there is NOTHING certain about this conference.

Teams that struggled last year are shocking teams this year and the good teams are … well … still good! All of that leads to an unpredictable and exciting stretch of soccer in the upcoming weeks!

So, in alphabetical order, here is a team-by-team breakdown of the OEC … get the popcorn ready!

CYPRESS (6-0-1) – Let's start off with a team that was 2-18 a year ago and now ALREADY just one goal shy (16) of last season's complete total (17). With victories over Victor Valley (3-1), Glendale (3-0), San Diego Mesa (2-1), Citrus (4-0), East Los Angeles (2-1) and Imperial Valley (1-0), only a 1-1 tie to Palomar is the lone "blemish" to a perfect start for the Chargers.

Sophomore Lorenzo La Violette is tied for the OEC lead with six goals and his 14 points is tops in the conference. Freshmen Alfonso Montano had three goals, while fellow first-year players Nicholas Gulewich and Nomar Ibarra each have two to added to the Chargers' arsenal.

Goalie Leonardo Mondragon has been equally impressive with just four goals allowed and a 0.59 GAA through seven matches played.

FULLERTON (3-3-2) – After topping the OEC last year and reaching the second round of the playoffs, the Hornets have struggled to find that "winning streak" to jump-start their season, going loss-win-tie-win-loss-win-tie-loss through the first eight matches of the season.

The FC trio of Alejandro Castillo, Ryan Meinardus and Marco Polo have each notched two goals and an assist, while Jonathan Aleman as one goal and one assist to lead the Fullerton offense.

In goal, the Hornets have played three players – Keven Gonzalez, Andres Ramirez and Anthony Rodriguez – and the trio has a combined 10 goals allowed and a 1.43 GAA with an .815 save percentage.

GOLDEN WEST (2-2-3) – After a season saw them advance all the way to the CCCAA State Championship (before falling to Cerritos in the title match), the Rustlers have taken on some tough customers during the nonconference and are still among the top squads in the conference.

With an offense that has just 10 goals through the first seven contests, the Rustlers are led by freshman Wilbert LoredoSuarez, who has three goals and two assists for eight points, followed by Luis Juarez (two goals -- four points), and Jonathan Ruiz (one goal, two assists – four points).

Returning goalkeeper Misha Marson has a 2.29 GAA and 15 saves in four matches, while teammate Adrian Covarrubias has allowed two goals with 11 saves and a 1.71 GAA.

IRVINE VALLEY (4-2-4) – After a rough 0-2-2 start to the 2019 campaign, the Lasers have played their best soccer since, going 4-0-2 in their last six matchups, including shutout wins over Southwestern (5-0) and a much improved Norco squad (1-0).

The IVC offense is much improved this year with a pair of Lasers near the top of the conference point totals. Sophomore forward Benjamin Asabi leads the Lasers with 13 points (six goals, one assist), while freshman Max Kleinhammes is close behind with 12 points (six goals). Fellow freshmen Juan Gomez (3G, 2A – 8 points) and Joshua Lummis (2G, 2A – 6 points) add to the depth and weapons of the IVC offense.

In goal, keep an eye on sophomore stopper Nathan King, who has 38 saves and a 1.22 GAA in nine matches played for the Lasers.

ORANGE COAST (6-1-1) – Much like Cypress College, the Pirates have raised some eyebrows through the early portion of the season, winning five straight matches and allowing just one goal and scoring 10 over that span. In fact, OCC has not allowed a goal over the past 397 minutes of action since giving one up midway through the second half against Palomar back on Sept. 10.

A freshman-heavy squad, OCC has a quartet of first-year players handling the offensive load, including Danny Vargas (three goals, three assists – nine points), Tino Varona (4G, 0A – 8 points), John Cisneros (3G, 0 A – 6 points) and Julian Madrigal (2G, 2A – 6 points).

Returning sophomore goalie Thiago Lino Da Costa has been solid to start the season off, with a 1.60 GAA over the first five matches, but backup Pablo Ramirez has played the last three matches for OCC and not allowed a goal with 14 saves.

SANTA ANA (4-1) – The Dons still have three nonconference matches left to play as of this writing, but they have already posted some solid numbers on both sides of the field in 2019.

Excluding a 4-1 setback to Oxnard on Aug. 30, the Dons have been outstanding, outscoring the competition 12-2 in their four wins. Freshman Gilberto Garcia leads the way with four goals and eight points, while Kevin Ruiz is close behind with three goals. Freshman midfielder Marcelo Aguirre leads the team with three assists to go along with one goal.

In goal, sophomore Frank Aguilar has notched 19 saves and allowed just six goals, while playing every minute between the pipes for the Dons.

SANTIAGO CANYON (1-5-1) – After a decent start to the season (1-1-1), the Hawks have stumbled a bit, dropping four straight with two more nonconference matches ahead of them this week. The offense has struggled a bit during SCC's recent slump, scoring just two goals over the past four matches.

Enrique Reynoso leads the Hawks with two goals, while Jesus Abaunza and Ali Ocampo each have a goal and an assist.

A bright spot for the Hawks has come from goalkeeper Lucas Clarida, who has allowed just one goal in 177 minutes played with 11 saves for SCC.

(release by Tony Altobelli, Men's Soccer Representative)