Last season, the Delhi Hawks varsity boys’ soccer team was one game away from reaching the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI Championship game.
This year, after losing a bulk of their starters, including their entire defense and all-league goalkeeper, the Hawks are rebuilding while also trying to pick up where last year’s team left off.
It will be tough road ahead, as the 2016-17 Hawks team made a run for the Southern Athletic League title with a 12-2 record and boasted an overall record of 17-7-1.
Delhi carried their five-game win streak from a year ago into the first round of the SJS D VI bracket where they took on Delta out of Clarksburg and shut them out 4-0.
They followed that up with an upset loss at home in the semifinal, losing to Riverbank 3-2 and eliminating their hopes of a blue banner.
Head coach Armando Salazar said he knows what needs to occur in order for this year’s team to see a positive and successful season.
“The league title possibility is always there,” said Salazar. “Even when you have a bad team, you always strive to get the title. I always say that when you think you have a good team, everybody has a good team and when you think you have an okay team, everybody has an okay team, so we are going to take it game by game.”
The Hawks won't have the luxury of a deep bench like last year, or even the physicality and unmatched size, but they do return one of the top scorers from that team in Roberto Calderon.
Calderon was the Hawks’ Most Valuable Player last year.
Despite losing over 14 seniors, they will have a few other key returners including goalkeeper Abel Cervantes, along with playmaker Efren Ceballos. And expect Ruben Grimaldo to create sparks after not playing just a season ago said Salazar.
“If those four guys step it up, and if we stay healthy, I think that is the biggest concern that I have is staying healthy because we don't have the depth we had last year,” said Salazar. “If we stay healthy we should be okay but if we get hurt then we are probably going to struggle.”
Delhi will also have to rely on the team's ability to pass concisely and play at a faster pace.
“This year we are not big, but I think we have talent,” said Salazar. “We are looking to see our guys stepping it up in terms of it being a faster game, not necessarily a physical game since we know we don't have the size, but if we can play a faster pace I think we will be okay.”
Delhi will take on Lathrop at home at 6 p.m. Dec. 12.