Lake Tahoe CC men’s soccer aims to build with quality in first recruiting class under Arbelaez
Nick Arbelaez plans to build a dynasty with the Lake Tahoe Community College men’s soccer program. The way he sees it, the Coyotes’ 2016 recruiting class represents the first step in that direction.
“What I want to build here is longevity within a program,” Arbelaez said. “This is something that I want to create for years to come — winning championships for this school and this city.”
Arbelaez is in his first full year as coach of the Coyotes, after taking over the team late last season. Lake Tahoe went 4-1-1 in six games with Arbelaez at the helm, with its season ending against eventual champion Oxnard College (Calif.) in the CCCAA State semifinals.
“Our big thing is remember what happened in that Final Four, remember how it felt and build off that,” Arbelaez said. “That’s what we want to build toward for next season.”
Now permanently in charge, Arbelaez is shaping the program the way he wants — starting with a change in tactics. The Coyotes will play a quick, possession-based style out of a 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3 formation, rather than the direct approach employed in their first two seasons.
“We’re switching the aura of this team and the way we’re going to play,” Arbelaez said. “There’s going to be a different feel to us when we walk out. We’re going to be confident, but not pompous.”
LTCC has 11 incoming recruits for the 2016 season, adding to a roster of 25 players — including 19 sophomores. As a result of the Coyotes’ experience, Arbelaez said he focused on quality players in the relatively small recruiting class.
“I want guys who can step in and do a job right away — that’s the biggest thing,” Arbelaez said. “These guys coming in have the opportunity to make an impact right away.”
The most coveted recruit of the class is Sean Keith, a 2014 graduate of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) that currently plays for FC Tucson in the Premier Development League. Keith is the son of Simon Keith, the first person to play soccer with a heart transplant, and will come to LTCC with strong interest from Div. I programs.
“He’s an absolute difference maker,” Arbelaez said of the midfielder/defender. “He can play in the middle and in the back, and he’s a leader on and off the field.”
Keith headlines a group of players that all have a connection to Arbelaez’s hometown of Las Vegas. That includes three transfers that played high school in Vegas — midfielder/forward Matt Fike from Yavapai College via Bishop Gorman, winger/forward Miguel Diaz Ortiz from Sierra Nevada College via Rancho and Pablo Gotti from Clark College via Centennial.
Seven Las Vegas products are coming to LTCC directly from the prep ranks next season. That group features midfielder Kirk Schroeder and winger Damien Gustavo from Desert Oasis, attacker Dalton Rice from Arbor View, attacker Jafet Izquierdo from Bonanza, forward Jesse Dominguez from Silverado, defender Levi Hunt from Centennial, and defender Everett Heredia from Shadow Ridge.
“I believe this year’s team is going to be better than last year’s team in a sense of camaraderie, and they’re more complete and much deeper,” Arbelaez said.
Lake Tahoe’s starting lineup will likely have at least nine returning players in it next season, but Arbelaez plans to count on the entire roster to make an impact. That was his main focus when bringing in this new class of recruits.
“In the Final Four, we got into a situation where we had to rely on guys that didn’t get a lot of time during the year,” Arbelaez said. “This year in the preseason, I want guys to get a lot of time and expect to play on that stage.”
The Coyotes’ returning group is led captains Miguel Prieto, Danny Culverwell, Victor Andrades, Josh Sapsed and Jack Larter. In the team’s recently completed spring season, Lake Tahoe delivered wins over NAIA programs University of Antelope Valley, Sierra Nevada College and Southern Oregon University.
“I’m looking forward to having a full year with these guys,” Arbelaez said. “They’re hungry and they’re focused.”
Lake Tahoe opens its 2016 season Aug. 26 at home against Clovis Community College (Fresno, Calif.). It will be the first game at the school’s new soccer facility, for which construction will begin Monday, May 16.