The Live Oak and Sobrato girls soccer teams started their respective league seasons on Jan. 3, with both sides facing different challenges.
The Bulldogs are in the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s top division, the Mount Hamilton, which boasts two teams that won CIF NorCal Regional championships last season in Leigh and Christopher. Live Oak plays in one of the BVAL’s B divisions, the Santa Teresa East, which, while not as top heavy, is plenty strong with the Acorns, fellow perennial Central Coast Section playoff participant Piedmont Hills and an upstart Gilroy side that went 4-1-1 in non-league action.
Incidentally, the Mustangs have beaten both Morgan Hill schools by identical 3-0 scores this season.
“We definitely have the same goals this year,” Live Oak coach Tony Vasquez said. “Our goal is to win league, get to CCS and hopefully get a shot to the finals. I’m very excited for the league season.”
Even though the Acorns are in the unique position of having only two seniors on the roster, it doesn’t mean they’re lacking experience. Approximately half of the girls play club including their top returner, sophomore Maddie Vasquez, Tony’s daughter.
Maddie plays with a high motor, sees the field well and then makes the moves to get in open spaces to unleash her rocket shots. Now, it’s all about finishing because she creates so many opportunities for herself, including a couple of golden scoring opportunities in a scoreless draw with Sobrato on Dec. 15.
“Maddie has definitely been working on that,” Tony said. “I definitely think that’s one of the weakest components in her game is shooting on the run, which is hard for anybody. So she’s been working really hard and I think she’s going to have a big year for us.”
In addition to Maddie Vasquez, Tony Vasquez said the team has a solid core of players in Mia Golubock, Grace Quadrini, Ella Anguiano, Ashlyn Ingram, Ava Navvaro, Evelyn Palominos, Alex Bergholz, Niamh Mcvey, Jysela Zuniga and goalkeeper Avery Smith.
The freshmen quartet of Mcvey, Navvaro, Anguiano and Ingram have either started or earned heavy minutes this season, which bodes well for the program’s future.
“I’ve coached a lot of these girls in club [previously with Orchard Valley] when they were little kids, so it’s kind of cool to have them here,” Vasquez said. “It makes it easier coaching-wise. We have a good mix and we’ve added girls who play high level club so I’m excited for this year.”
Meanwhile, across town Sobrato got off to a hot start which was cooled by a 3-0 loss to Gilroy on Dec. 29. The Bulldogs (4-1-3 overall, 0-0-1 league) got a decent result in their league opener, a 1-1 draw with Christopher on Jan. 3. Bulldogs coach Marcelo Mariaca said the team has talent, but it will need to be cohesive in all phases to compete for a top four finish in the rugged Mount Hamilton Division.
“The girls are really good at holding onto the ball, passing, playing as a team, attacking, pressing, so we’re excited for the league season,” said Mariaca, who is in his first season coaching the girls after spending the previous four years coaching the Sobrato junior varsity boys squad. “It should be exciting and fun for everybody.”
Sobrato has a slew of experienced players, led by KK Sullivan, a University of the Pacific-signee. Sullivan possesses tremendous speed and is a threat to get behind the opposition on the flanks. Chloe Brown returns to anchor the backline at center back, and Mariaca has her there because of her speed and touch.
Midfielders Sydney Nguyen, Chloe Gallipeo and Miya Avila are capable of controlling the possession and distributing the ball well, Mariaca said.
Mariaca also mentioned Zoe Hargreaves, Linzee Clayton and goalkeeper Kate Mandrell as difference-makers. Mandrell is also a captain and has produced a number of stellar performances over the last handful of years.
“An advantage of having a good goalie is you can trust them and go from there,” Mariaca said.