Hungry for state: Lake Tahoe CC men’s soccer aims to possess its way to the top after Final Four defeat
LTCC Men’s Soccer 2016 schedule
Aug. 26 vs. Clovis, 7 p.m. (LTCC Invite)
Aug. 27 vs. Mendocino, 5 p.m. (LTCC Invite)
Aug. 30 at Cañada, 1 p.m.
Sept. 2-4 Hartnell Invitational
Sept. 6 vs. American River, 4 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Santa Rosa, 4 p.m.
Sept. 10 vs. San Francisco City, 3 p.m.
Sept. 16 at De Anza, 2 p.m.
*Sept. 27 at Butte, 2 p.m.
*Sept. 30 vs. Feather River, 4 p.m.
*Oct. 7 vs. Lassen, 4 p.m.
*Oct. 11 at Siskiyous, 2 p.m.
*Oct. 14 vs. Redwoods (at Shasta), 4 p.m.
*Oct. 18 at Shasta, 2 p.m.
*Oct. 21 vs. Butte, 4 p.m.
*Oct. 25 at Feather River, 2 p.m.
*Nov. 1 at Lassen, 2 p.m.
*Nov. 4 vs. Siskiyous, 4 p.m.
*Nov. 8 vs. Shasta, noon
*Nov. 10 vs. Redwoods (at Butte), 2 p.m.
Home games in bold
*Golden Valley Conference contest
The Lake Tahoe Community College men’s soccer program has achieved unprecedented success in its first two years. And the 2016 Coyotes want to take things further while making history.
“They have an opportunity to win a state title — it’s up to them at this point,” said Coyotes head coach Nick Arbelaez. “The pedigree is there, they have to be hungry every single game.”
A stellar 2015 season ended in bitter fashion for Lake Tahoe, with a 1-0 loss to eventual CCCAA state champion Oxnard College in the Final Four. The Coyotes finished the season nationally ranked and with an 18-5-2 record — but fell short of their ultimate goal.
“We’ve got all the ingredients and we know what we need to do,” said sophomore midfielder Rich Murray. “Coming that close has made us more hungry — none of us want to have that feeling again.”
“We’re hungry,” sophomore goalkeeper Victor Andrades added. “We’ve been waiting since Dec. 4 when we lost in that semifinal — we’ve been waiting to get back here and start all over again.”
Arbelaez ended last season as interim head coach, and took over the program following the campaign. He plans to continue the Coyotes’ success while shaping the program into a dynasty.
“To head the program is really special, and it’s a privilege,” Arbelaez said. “I take a lot of pride in this position, and every day I step on the field I give the players everything I have.”
Lake Tahoe has 35 players on this season’s roster, including 17 sophomores returning from last year’s Final Four team. That experienced group features Andrades and Murray along with forwards Josh Sapsed and Stephen Flora, midfielders Alex Maphosa and Miguel Prieto, and defenders Danny Culverwell, Jack Larter and Courtney Lewis.
“We had a lot of individuals last year that wanted to make the game theirs,” Culverwell said. “This time we’re actually a team — everyone knows how each other plays and it’s really good to play with.”
New players expected to make an impact for the Coyotes include defender Sean Keith and midfielders Miguel Diaz-Ortiz, Jafet Izquierdo and Dalton Rice — all Las Vegas products. Diaz-Ortiz transferred to LTCC from NAIA program Sierra Nevada College, and brings pace and confidence from the back.
“It’s pretty amazing — I didn’t expect this much talent to come,” Prieto said. “Coach Nick brought some really great players in and it makes things a lot easier.”
In terms of tactics, the Coyotes will have a different look on the pitch in 2016. LTCC will play possession-style soccer that Arbelaez prefers, rather than the direct approach it took during the last two years.
“We want to possess teams and run them into the ground, and we definitely have the guys that can do that,” Keith said. “We’re definitely going to score a lot of goals and teams are going to fear coming to play us.”
Lake Tahoe will spend most of its time in a 4-2-3-1 formation that will branch off to a 4-3-3 when the team is on attack. In terms of style, the Coyotes already like what they see on the field.
“It seems like everyone has excelled once they got it down on the floor and played it about a little bit more,” Lewis said. “It has exposed our best qualities in the team and plays to our strengths.”
“The gameplay this season is going to be a lot better,” Maphosa agreed. “We’re looking to score, possess and hold the game.”
Arbelaez hasn’t set a starting lineup with the season approaching, but said Lake Tahoe’s top 15-20 players are starting to take shape. Not knowing who is in the team’s first 11 has led to intense, competitive practices throughout August.
“It’s the hardest preseason I’ve ever been a part of,” Flora said. “Nick is coming out every day and pushing us to be better than the day before — no matter how good we think we are, there’s always a way to get better.”
The Coyotes opened the season ranked eighth in the NSCAA Junior College Div. III national rankings, and are one of four CCCAA teams in the top eight. The preseason recognition matches the team’s high expectations that include winning a third straight Golden Valley Conference title and a state championship.
“We want to be No. 1 in the nation, we want to be the best team out here,” Larter said. “That’s what every soccer player strives for — to be the best.”
Lake Tahoe opens the season Friday, Aug. 26, against Clovis Community College (Fresno, Calif.) at 7 p.m. — the first game at the school’s new stadium. The Coyotes play 10 games in 22 days prior to starting conference play Sept. 27 at Butte College.
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