Revived Falcons look to fly deep into playoffs
“What a difference a year makes,” Forest Lake Christian boys soccer coach Steve Koch said when reflecting on his team’s journey from last season to the present.
“You could see the talent last year, but I don’t think we believed we could do it. We played great at times but weren’t consistent,” Koch said.
In his second year at the helm of the Falcons soccer team, Koch, along with his son Garrett, have returned FLC to the elite soccer program that has claimed four section titles since 1997.
Last year at this point in the prep soccer season, Forest Lake Christian had already hung up its cleats, concluding the 2012 campaign at 3-16-3 with a 1-7 league record and finishing second to last in the Central Valley California League.
This year has been a whole new story. The Falcons finished 14-5-1 with a 7-1 CVCL record, earning them their first league title since 2007.
With the impressive season and league championship, the Falcons also secured the No. 1 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII playoffs. They will host No. 8 seed Sierra Ridge Academy at 3 p.m. today. Sierra Ridge finished second in the Central California Athletic Alliance, and overall, the Rams finished the regular season 5-4-2 and were 4-3-2 in CCAA play.
Koch says the move from the CVCL cellar to the penthouse is due to his team’s belief in itself.
“It happened in the Placer game,” he said. “We didn’t win, but the light went on, and it was like, ‘Hey, we are a pretty good team.’”
FLC also tallied a quality non-league win against Division I playoff team Nevada Union.
The Falcons’ defense has been stout in 2013 with defenders Sean Kadera, Daniel Cuneo, Jason Foster and Tyler Young turning away offensive attacks with their heady play. Cuneo leads the team in steals with 197 this season, Kadera has 181, Young has tallied 123, and Foster has lifted 106.
“That’s really been the key this year,” Koch said. “Defense wins games. And those guys play skillfully and with lots of heart, but they are also thinkers. They make the wise plays, the safe plays.”
The Falcons will be short Kadera and possibly Foster but have a deep bench with 12 seniors on their roster and will ask Luke Jordan and Garret Jones to pick up extra minutes on the defensive end.
First-year goalie Kyle Soria has been a nice surprise, making 149 saves to just 16 goals against. Soria also has two shutouts this season.
The Falcons’ offense has put up impressive numbers with senior captain Hunter Semen and senior Logan Ray leading the way.
Ray, a nifty scorer who plays much bigger than his 5-foot, 2-inch frame would suggest, leads the team in goals with 19. Ray also has 12 assists.
“(Ray) is the first person to practice,” Koch said. “He’s early and always ready to go. He wants the ball. He’s tough and not afraid to mix it up. He gives us that explosion on the offensive end.”
Semen, the Falcons’ smooth field general, is second on the team with 16 goals and 11 assists.
“Overall, (Semen) is just a great player,” Koch said. “He sets the tone for the game with his distributing but can also score. He is just a fantastic player. I believe we have the league MVP in either Ray or Semen.”
FLC also has scorers in Scott Gauthier (6), Roman Makovey (5) and Kevin Hegarty (7).
In 20 matches this season, the Falcons have scored 61 goals and allowed just 16. Sierra Ridge has scored 48 goals and allowed 26 through 11 games this season.
FLC enters today’s playoff matchup having won 12 of its last 14 matches, while Sierra Ridge limps in having gone 0-2-2 in its final four contests.
Koch said he doesn’t know much about the Rams, just what he could glean from MaxPreps.com, but that doesn’t matter as his team will take the same approach no matter whom it faces.
“We have to show up for a tough team,” Koch said. “They made the playoffs, so they are a tough team. At this point, all the teams are tough. Any team can beat any other team on any given day.”
With that said, Koch also added that he believes his team has what it takes to claim the section the title.
The Round 1 match gets started at 3 p.m. today at Forest Lake Christian.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.
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