Blast from the past: South Tahoe alum, state champion Vazquez tabbed as boys soccer head coach
As the South Tahoe boys soccer program moves forward, it will do so by drawing from its successful past. Former Vikings player Eder Vazquez was named head coach of the program last month, and the state champion seeks to put STHS back on top.
“It really means a lot to me going back to the school,” Vazquez said. “These boys are not only going to be soccer players, they’re also going to be community members in the future — that’s the overall goal.”
Vazquez graduated from South Tahoe in 2007. In his first year at STHS, he played in the midfield on the 2005 Vikings team that delivered a second straight NIAA Div. I state championship.
“It was really special to play here because that is the first year I moved from Mexico,” Vazquez said. “Now going back as a coach, I’m really excited to implement a new program focusing on athletics and academics.”
Vazquez replaces Ben Hannah, who led the Vikings to a combined 22-10-3 record and pair of regional playoff appearances in his two seasons as head coach. For the past half-decade, Vazquez has coached soccer around South Lake Tahoe — last year he worked as a volunteer with South Tahoe’s JV team while coaching the U-16 boys squad at South Tahoe Futbol Club.
“He brings a lot to the program,” South Tahoe athletic director Tony Sunzeri said. “He is very familiar with the situations and the struggles that oftentimes come along with boys soccer, which are eligibility and disciplinary issues.”
As Vazquez starts a new era of South Tahoe boys soccer, he sees future success of the program defined by what happens both on the field and outside the lines. A major factor in that is combatting eligibility issues that have plagued the program in recent seasons.
“The biggest challenge in my opinion is the grades — from my experience, that’s one of the main questions before you start a program,” Vazquez said. “One of the things we want to change is to have academic support for the players, so at the end of the school year they’re not wondering if they have the grades.
“Our goal is going to be for them to not only have the minimum grades, but to strive for the best.”
Another challenge Vazquez sees as he takes over the program is keeping Vikings’ players on the field together during the offseason. His plan is to have the team stick together after high school season in order to build familiarity and continuity on the pitch.
“It was basically a new start every year because they would stop playing for a few months,” Vazquez said. “It was hard to play as a team and build that team environment once they got back to high school again.”
Vazquez described his coaching style as quiet and composed, and wants his players to have an idea of the bigger picture rather than just taking it game by game. His preferred style is possession-based soccer out of a 4-4-2 formation — he said the team’s formation might change based on the opposition, but the overall plan will not.
“I like playing possession soccer — smart soccer. We will have the ball,” Vazquez said. “When we’re defending, I like to play strong and aggressive in a good way to pressure the ball because that creates mistakes from the other team.”
Vazquez is bringing three coaches with him to South Tahoe, and each bring both playing and coaching experience to South Tahoe. That group includes varsity assistant James Nealis, JV head coach Jose Torres and JV assistant Jason Roberts.
“For continued success in any program, you have to be willing to organize everything down to the ‘T’ — and he and his staff bring that to the program, a program that is one of the richest in South Tahoe High School,” Sunzeri said. “It’s definitely on the upswing right now with these guys.”
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