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Delhi and Denair look to make a splash in SAL
Denair soccer 1
Denairs Brian Dudley gets ready to rip a cross from the opposite side of the field during Thursdays practice at Denair Middle School. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

The Southern Athletic League had a facelift in 2013 and so did Delhi and Denair high schools.

The Delhi Hawks are coming off back-to-back winning seasons that included playoff berths in each of the prior two years but unfortunately Riverbank has been there to stop their run — twice.

Now in 2014, the Hawks are looking at it as a year to really push out of the first round postseason hump.

“At the beginning of the season we thought we would have a hard time,” said Delhi head coach Armando Salazar. “As we started having our players come out and we adjusted things, we started to find the right place. I don’t want to say it but I hope it’s the year we break that losing streak in the playoffs.”

As the season moved on during the 2013 year, Delhi seemed to get better after every matchup as they did not lose a game for an entire month leading up to the playoff loss.

In the final six games the team went 4-0-2, which included three clean sheets in that span.

“We started to play great as the season progressed and that kept us up and we were able to be competitive enough for other teams especially at the end,” said Salazar.

Now this year, the team returns five standout players in Jorge and Erik Aguilar, Alex Contreras, Ivan Udave and also Mario Moran to lead the team.

“This year we have enough midfielders and should be our strength,” Salazar said. “I think we will have to put the right pieces in the right place and once we do that I think we will be a good team. We have a few kids coming back and tasted the playoff experience so hopefully they will work harder this year.”

The entire Hawks supporters should expect nothing short of another competitive year from Salazar’s squad.

“It’s a hard working team and I feel we can break the individuality and work as a team,” he said. “That’s always been our method and that has made us successful in previous years and I hope our kids will know they worked together and played their hearts out.”

Denair is coming off their first season with head coach Paul Oei at the helm and after tallying up a 3-16-1 regular season record and saying goodbye to two seniors, the team seems to finally have found their identity.

“Last year was more of a building year trying to get our core and these kids will prove and do something this year for sure,” Oei said. “Last year I think they all thought they were ready but they weren’t ready for the competition, but this year they should be good.”

Midfield should be the strength for the 2014 team but it won’t be an easy task to make it a winning season as they still have a huge question at the goalkeeper position.

“We will have a strong midfield group. Our biggest struggle this year will be finding a goalie because honestly we don’t really have a goalie this year,” said Oei. “Skill wise, chemistry, everything should be better this year without a doubt. Our midfield is all back which is nice.”

Tyler Ottis is back after starting in varsity as a freshman but he has told Oei that he would rather not play goalkeeper, at least for the 2014 season but that is still in the air, Oei said.

The team has been working hard all summer long with an average of 12-15 players behind the leader and captain, Isaac Starks.

“This season we’ve been working all summer and the boys have been practicing on their own,” Oei said. “We were taking a few weeks off but the kids still voted to do fitness. There is much more improvement from last year. Technically we’re much better including our speed.”

The new Coyotes also welcome about five or six newcomers who played football last year.

There has already been huge signs of improvement and Oei says that this team should contend at least for the postseason.

“I feel like this year we will definitely be within top four and I’m confident enough to say we will be competing for a playoff spot for sure,” Oei said. “We have the skills and if they work hard and play as a team they can, but we will give every team a run and it will be a surprising season.”

Denair’s first regular season matchup is scheduled for Sept. 2 at Denair against Tioga.

Delhi will have their first regular season matchup at Pacheco High at 4 p.m. on Sept. 3.