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Morgan Hill
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February 8, 2023

Sobrato boys soccer shows it’s the favorite to win the BVAL Santa Teresa East Division title

After a dominating run through the lowest of the three-tier divisions in the Blossom Valley Athletic League last year, the Sobrato High boys soccer team was promoted to the B-league Santa Teresa East Division this season. 

Armed with a slew of returners, the Bulldogs have continued their ascension as they aim for a second consecutive league title. The Bulldogs are 7-1-2 and the probable favorite to win the Santa Teresa East championship. 

Coach Jeff Brown knew this year’s team would be solid again after losing a scrimmage to Bellarmine 2-1 in late November. The Bells, of course, are a perennial Central Coast Section power and even though it was a scrimmage and doesn’t count in a team’s record, both sides typically go hard and play as if it’s a match that counts. 

“I’ve got to tell you at times you win and lose, but I was really proud of the boys because they played their hearts out and left the field with respect,” Brown said. 

The Bulldogs have several standout returners including center midfielder Phi Nguyen, who is a wizard with the ball. If Sobrato is controlling the possession, there’s good reason to believe it’s because Nguyen is dictating the play. 

“Phi has ball skills I can only dream of having or a dream I still have,” Brown said. “He’s so incredibly crafty and a big reason why our midfield is strong and extremely capable.”

Ian Nave and center back Bobby Romero also get the job done and were standouts last season. Senior Jordan Hay plays an instrumental role at the six, or defensive midfielder position.

“I call Jordan the maestro because he controls the field beautifully,” Brown said. 

The Bulldogs are potent up top with strikers Paolo Mancera—the West Valley Division Junior of the Year last season—and junior Jose Gomero, who is capable of scoring on a moment’s notice and did just that in a 2-1 win over Hillsdale of San Mateo on Jan. 2. 

“You can see him for three-quarters of the game and not think anything happens, and the next thing you know he puts one on you,” Brown said. “His goal against Hillsdale was beautiful. It was an absolute banger that made jaws drop. Just great. Jose is super crafty and just hits beautiful shots.”

Beating Hillsdale was Sobrato’s best result of the season thus far since the Knights are an A-league team out of the Peninsula Athletic League’s Bay Division. Sophomore Yair Galan Lopez struck with 10 seconds remaining, a spectacular ending to a well-played match. 

“That was a pretty exciting moment and I think it brought together the team even more,” Brown said. “We have high hopes for Yair for sure. He’ll give you 100% the whole time as will someone like Ian Nave.”

Brown praised the three senior captains—Anthony Nevarez, Sergio Garcia Medina and Emiliano Santana—for their leadership and playmaking ability. Medina and Santana are outside fullbacks and Nevarez was the West Valley Division Goalkeeper of the Year last season. 

Nevarez started last year with the junior varsity team before he was quickly pulled up to the varsity squad. 

“In BVAL meetings [at the end of last season], I had coaches coming up to me saying your goalie was amazing,” Brown said. “I think the vote was unanimous so it’s been an amazing rise for him. Anthony is just as cool as can be on the ball.”

A soccer team has a big advantage if it can play out of the back starting from its goalkeeper, and that’s what Nevarez allows Sobrato to do. 

“You want to be able to pass the ball back to a goalie and not be fearful [that something detrimental is going to happen],” Brown said. “You want to use goalies and play out of the back with the way soccer is played nowadays.”

The Bulldogs don’t have the biggest team around but they’ve got more size than last year, led by returning center midfielder Diego Chakarevski. 

“It looks like Diego grew 3-4 inches,” Brown said. “He’s big and strong.”

Fellow junior TJ Pratt has been playing “amazing in the center,” Brown said, and another junior, Owen Schwalen, has helped ease the loss of standout center back Zane Sin, who suffered a season-ending broken collarbone injury against Willow Glen on Dec. 8.

“Losing Zane was tough for a lot of reasons,” Brown said. “You don’t replace a guy like him, but Owen has come on and is getting better and better every game. Once he settles in, he’ll be fantastic alongside Bobby.”

Brown described senior Kyle Ton as “rock solid in the center as well.” 

In a 5-0 win over Monta Vista of Cupertino on Jan. 5, Mancera scored two goals while Ton, Gomero and Santana had one goal each. Sobrato won the West Valley Division championship last year before losing in the opening round of the CCS playoffs to a Sacred Heart Prep side that advanced all the way to the CIF NorCal Regional Division IV title game. 

Brown said the onus is on the players to produce another memorable season. 

“They’re going to have to make their season something to remember,” he said. “And that’s going to be their journey. That’s what I’m hoping for them, that they find their groove. The dream is to go to CCS and make it past the first round.”

Anthony Nevarez has continued his excellent play after winning West Valley Division GOY last year. Photo by J. Natividad.
The Sobrato High boys soccer team’s chemistry had let it to another fast start. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Emanuel Lee
Emanuel Lee is the sports editor of the Los Gatan, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. An American High and University of Kentucky alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Gavilan College, various youth sports in south Santa Clara/San Benito counties and pro sports on occasion. Two decades of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. With the Weeklys/NewSVMedia group since 2013. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40 (7:24 mile pace), counts himself as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza. Coaches, athletic directors and parents are encouraged to report scores to [email protected]

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