Nevada Union boys soccer team kicking things off
The Nevada Union boys soccer team is back in the postseason for the second time in three years, marking one of the strongest runs in Miners soccer history.
But if NU is to extend its season past today’s first-round matchup, it will take a mighty effort.
The Miners scratched and clawed their way into the playoffs, finishing third in the Sierra Foothill League, just edging out Roseville, and drawing the No. 16 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I bracket.
The Miners will face No. 1 seed Jesuit. The Marauders are 23-0-3, reigning Section champs, Delta River League champs and currently Ranked No. 1 in California and No. 4 in the U.S., according to MaxPreps.com. On top of that, the Miners will face Jesuit on the Marauders’ pitch, where they are 9-0-1.
With all the odds heavily against Nevada Union, senior striker and top goal-scorer for the Miners, Nikolai Breiter isn’t deterred.
“Of course we are pretty nervous but also excited,” Breiter said. “We’ve never played a team of this caliber. It will be interesting to see how we stack up.”
The 5-foot, 11-inch footballer said the Miners are playing their best soccer of the year, and the struggle his team had to go through just to get into the playoffs has made them better both mentally and physically.
“In a soccer game, anything can happen,” Breiter said. “You never know. Soccer can be won with heart. It’s whoever has the most heart.”
Breiter, a three-year varsity player, led NU in goals this season with seven, five more than the next Miner. Breiter was also named to the All-Sierra Foothill League first team for the second straight season and led all SFL scorers.
Fourth-year head coach Alex Butterfield knows his team has a tall task but, like Breiter, thinks his team is playing their its soccer of the year, and with that, anything can happen.
“Obviously we expect (Jesuit) will be a pretty special team,” Butterfield said. “We are happy to enjoy the occasion, but at the same time, anything can happen. We have been really strong on defense this year, and if we can keep them out, then we have a chance.”
Butterfield added that his team played its best game of the season last week, a 2-2 draw with playoff-bound Woodcreek. Butterfield said the Miners have been subtly progressing toward this crescendo all season.
“We are really peaking at the right time,” Butterfield said. “And in tournament play, that’s what you want.”
If the Miners are to leave Jesuit with an upset of monumental proportions, they will need strong play from their team captain and four-year varsity starter Sean Anderson.
“Sean is a natural,” Butterfield said. “He’s a leader by example. He knows the game as well as anybody.”
Anderson was second on the team in goals, but his main role is as field general, Butterfield said.
Anderson was also named to the All-SFL team along with senior Greg Paul and senior Collin Echols. Paul leads NU in assists with six, and Echols is regarded for his impressive defensive prowess.
Echols and his fellow defenders will have their hands full with the high-scoring Marauders. Jesuit has scored 82 goals this season. Senior Evan Barrett leads Jesuit with 19 goals, and Tucker Bone and Diego Buesrostro both have 14 goals. As good as the Jesuit offense is, its defense may be better, allowing just 13 goals in 26 contests.
But for the Miners, no task is too tall. They have already begun changing the culture of NU soccer to a winning one. The next step on that journey is today at 3 p.m. at Jesuit in Carmichael.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
New season. New co-head coaches. Same expectations.