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Soccer Preview Versatility, Depth Could Be Key For Cougar Kickers
Strength in numbers and plenty of depth should combine to make for an exciting 2010 soccer season for the Escalon varsity Cougars.

Under the direction of fourth year head coach Paul Silva, the squad hopes to challenge for the Trans-Valley League title and also make a return trip to the postseason.

"We have a lot of numbers, a big squad and we have a deep squad, there's quite a bit of talent there," said Silva. "We'll be versatile. We can be a very attacking team and, if need be, we can clog up the middle to make it hard for other teams to score."

Key returners include seniors, midfielder Nestor Mancilla, sweeper Fernando Lopez, a third year varsity starter; defender Edgar Pantoja, and forward Cesar Felix. Also back is junior Carlos Algandar, a forward that Silva pulled up to the varsity midway through last season.

"He has been impressive," Silva said of Algandar. "Cesar Felix is a senior who played on varsity as a sophomore and he's back for me, he's one of the fastest kids out there.

Junior Jordan Hall was also pulled up as a sophomore last year to the varsity level and plays both goalie and midfielder.

"There were times he played on the field and he will split time (in goal) with Austen Cardoza," Silva said.

Cardoza is a junior who is valuable at keeper and midfield.

Other newcomers up from the JV include sophomore Hugo Cervantes, a midfielder who got into the last couple of varsity games last season, junior defenders Mason Silva and Danny Pantoja, who is coming off an injury and sitting out last year.

"We lost four senior starters and a few more that played a lot but our seniors coming back, they got a lot of playing time last year," Silva said. "Our team was pretty much a junior dominated team."

Now with one more year of experience behind them, Silva said he hopes to see some overall improvements.

"We were a little inconsistent, you can dominate for 79 minutes and give up a goal in that one other minute and lose," he pointed out. "We need to play hard for 80 minutes."

Silva said he's unsure of Trans-Valley League newcomer Orestimba but is familiar with Hilmar, making a return to the TVL.

"They are talented, super aggressive and those kids work hard," Silva said of Hilmar. "Ripon should be good, Hughson has some talented players, Riverbank lost a lot of kids but they had a talented JV team last year ... it should be pretty wide open and the level of play should be pretty high."

Riverbank claimed the TVL title last season, just edging out the second place Cougars. Escalon went on to lose in the first round of the playoffs by a 4-1 final to Hilmar.

Silva said he has been pleased with practices so far and is eager for the team's first official competition.

"So far they've shown a lot of drive, desire," he said. "I think we have the talent to win (league title) or at least compete for it."

The soccer team hosts Calaveras in a scrimmage today, Wednesday, Aug. 25 at 4 p.m. and then travel to Sierra for a game on Friday, Aug. 27. League action kicks off with a trip to Riverbank on Sept. 16.

Returning to coach the JV team is Talmage Allen, back for another year working with the underclassmen, helping shape them into a successful team that will feed in to the varsity level.