Miners soccer team full of pleasant surprises
Pleasant surprises just keep happening to the Nevada Union boys soccer program.
New conference. New head coach. Gobs of new players.
Now, a little respect.
Thursday, the Miners received the recognition it deserves – or the kiss of death, depending on how one judges the glass – by being ranked 13th in the Sacramento area by the Sacramento Bee.
News also filtered down this week that the Metro Conference would receive not two but three playoff berths once the end of October arrives.
Three weeks ago, NU coach Mike Voss looked at his young talent pool, the history of a program that has come close but never tasted the playoffs, as well as a new crop of opponents and proclaimed that a .500 season seemed realistic enough for the Miners this year.
But NU has romped to a 8-1-3 record in the preseason. The Miners have not allow a goal in the past eight of those matches contested, not counting Thursday’s forfeit when Hiram Johnson was a no-show.
Though five weeks away, the playoffs could be within a distant grasp.
“Maybe we even have a shot to go to sections,” Voss said. “That has been their goal since I coached them on the j.v. team, to be the first team from NU to go there. But we’ll have to play tough against Kennedy and Woodland. There is no gimme there.”
The success for NU starts with its defensive play. Senior outside halfbacks Chris Russo and Brian Gardner, and juniors Phillip Plant, Matt Uilinski, Casey Clark, Garett Perez and Cody Grout all help to make goalkeeper Cody Bielen’s job a lot easier.
Just as Russo and Gardner are able to cover a lot of ground along the flanks, midfielders Jose Zanudo and Ben Hajduk are able to offer valuable defensive assistance primarily by keeping the ball on their feet and in the opponent’s end of the field.
“Cody (Bielen) is like a cat or a frog, with good instincts,” Voss said of the goalkeeper. “He’s tough. He used to be a catcher, so he is not afraid to block the plate. We had three scoreless games this year, and some wonder ‘when are we going to score?’. As long as the defense keeps us in the games, that opportunity will come.”
Vince Vosti is a sportswriter for The Union. Reach him at 477-4267.
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Grass Valley native Brad Sweet drove past the competition and into victory lane last week, snapping his longest winless streak of the season.