By Henry Hawley
The varsity soccer Cubs are off to a 5-2 start, that includes a 1-0 win over San Clemente on Friday, Dec. 11, in the San Clemente tournament hosted by San Clemente High School. The Cubs are ranked sixth in Division I, according to CIF.
Although the Cubs have found some success early in the season, senior captain Clayton Barnes understands that this season will be a strenuously competitive haul. “Our team knows that every opponent is out to beat us, so we’re gonna give our best shot every time,” said Barnes. “We have to prepare for every team to the best of our abilities, and we have to mature and develop our chemistry to get to compete with the best out there.”
This year’s varsity team is made up of 12 seniors, eight juniors, three sophomores, and one freshman. With such a large team, the depth at each position will be an asset to the team throughout the entire season, according to Barnes.
Although the team is comprised of many seniors, the contributions from underclassmen “gives the team great confidence for league games,” said team captain Elliot Smith-Hastie.
Junior forward Luciano Gazcon, who has scored two goals in four games, and sophomore defenseman Declan Gaffney are among those younger contributors, both of whom are starters on the team. Gaffney recently got injured but is expected to be back on the playing field before their next tournament, according to Gazcon.
Head coach Chris Walter ‘93 believes that another asset to the team this year is senior midfielder Dylan Juarez who is joining the Cubs for the first time after playing Academy soccer during his first three years at Loyola. Juarez said, “I am proud to be playing for Loyola and have been incredibly impressed with the high level of coaching and training I have received. The transition has been very smooth, and I appreciate my teammates and coaches welcoming me to the soccer squad.”
Juarez also recognized the contributions from the underclassmen saying, “We currently have 12 seniors on the roster which brings experience and maturity that helps with the overall atmosphere, but we also have a talented group of underclassmen who make us a better team.”
Coach Walter believes the team has worked hard to improve not only their skills but also their team unity. He said, “These boys really work hard at practice every day. Their desire to be better and to compete against their opponent has built a strong bond this early in the season.”
Barnes noted that the team needs to improve their communication on the field. In their 3-2 loss against St. John Bosco on Thursday, Dec. 3, miscommunication led to Bosco making some key runs and ultimately outscoring the Cubs. “We had some incomplete passes and missed markings because we were not on the same page,” said Barnes. “The little things like passing can make an extreme difference in a game, so we need to clean that up.”
Both Smith-Hastie and Juarez credit Andre Woodert, the new strength and conditioning coach at Loyola, with the team’s increased intensity. Juarez said, “We now feel very fit, and we are confident going into the middle and later part of games and we know this will give us an edge on our competition this season.”
The Cubs’ new training regimen paid off in their 1-0 victory over Long Beach Jordan on Tuesday, Dec. 8. A back and forth possession battle lasted all game until senior forward Vincil Crenshaw headed the ball in for the deciding goal.
The Cubs continued their season this past weekend at the San Clemente Tournament where they finished in fifth place. They began the tournament with a 4-1 loss against Hamilton High School, Arizona. With that loss, the Cubs were placed in the consolation bracket where they beat San Clemente, who was then ranked sixth in Division I, by a score of 1-0. The team moved on to the consolation championship and defeated Carlsbad 1-0, finishing fifth overall in the tournament.
On Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Cubs competed against Santa Monica, beating them 3-0.
The Cubs’ final game before holiday break will be today against Paramount at home at 3:00 p.m. The team will participate in the annual Alumni Game Saturday, Dec. 19, and will resume regular season play on Monday, Dec. 28, in the Oceanside Tournament. The first Mission League game is scheduled to be at home against Chaminade on Wednesday, Jan. 6, at 3:15 p.m.