Last year, the Denair High School boys soccer team just missed the Southern League playoffs (10-10-2, 7-6-1 SL).
This year, barely missing the playoffs could be considered a success for the young Coyotes squad.
The message for 2012 is, undoubtedly, rebuilding, according to first year head coach Gregario De Loa.
“They lost a lot of impact players,” said De Loa, who coached the Denair girls soccer team last year and played collegiately at Holy Names University in Oakland.
Chief among those losses was top goaltender Casey Clark, who tallied 165 saves and 4 shutouts last year. Also graduating was team number two scorer Juan De La Cruz, who finished the 2011 campaign with 11 goals and 6 assists.
That’s not to say that none of Denair’s top players have returned, though.
The Coyotes’ best scorer in 2011, junior Jonathan Oei, will look to build upon his 13 goal campaign from a year ago. Junior Patrick Dudley, with 3 goals and 2 assists in 2011, and senior Patrick Dudley, with 2 goals and 3 assists, join Oei as the nucleus of the young team.
“They’re probably going to be playing every minute of every game,” De Loa said. “They’re three star players.”
The small school squad faces an uphill battle, with a limited student body and a popular football program drawing some potential players away from soccer. Currently, the team has only about 15 players, leaving few reserves.
“We have a strong nine,” De Loa said. “Unfortunately, we need 11.”
The Coyotes will look to identify their winning 11 this weekend, as their season kicks off at the annual Yosemite Cup tournament at Sonora High School. De Loa said he expects to mix up his lineups, placing players in many different positions to see how the team best fits together.
The tournament will also be a good experience for the players, De Loa said, many of whom are new to high school soccer.
“It’s a good way to see where we are, what we need to work on,” De Loa said.
As the season progresses, De Loa wants to see his players improve with every game. He wants to see the Coyotes challenge for wins.
And most of all, De Loa wants to get his young players ready for what could be an extremely competitive 2013 season.
“As long as we get better, and as long as the guys listen, I think it’s going to be a good year,” De Loa said.