Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Patterson High boys soccer is the real deal

The end to the story the Patterson High boys soccer team scripted last year did not measure up to the rest of its storybook 2007 campaign.

The 2008 Tigers (10-2-1, 3-0-1) are once again loaded with talent. The question, however, is can they bounce back from last year’s end of the season heartbreak loss to Livingston?

For talent, Patterson starts with the core of Rodrigo Aldana, who should be one of the most feared offensive players in the Western Athletic Conference, having already scored 26 goals in the young season.

The Tigers’ Gerardo Cortez, Gustavo Molina and Michael Laines have also provided leadership and experience for Patterson against the always-tough conference schedule.

But, what has impressed me the most thus far, is that the success of the Tigers program comes from not being over-confident and playing as a unit. Patterson has scored 65 goals and 59 of those scores were assisted.

Patterson players apparently are encouraged by coach Greg Hartsell to use their creativity more this season. They seem to have moved away from the set plays that produced long passes. While those can lead to easy goals, they can produce more turnovers.

But, perhaps Hartsell’s best decision thus far, was his commitment to focusing on conditioning even before the season began. The team ran, ran and ran some more in the opening weeks of practice working on becoming physically fit.

And, it’s paying off.

Patterson has really learned to open up the field and use the whole field by passing the ball. With the talent they have, they should be able to control the ball much of the time and give it away as little as possible.

Hartsell’s attention to fitness seems to have caught on with the team. They are less-likely to run into problems with teams that play a more physical style.

Patterson’s soccer program has always had a solid pool of talent that forms the foundation of its success. While the Tigers are blessed with great soccer ability, success usually hinges on the team’s ability to center itself and respond to the teaching acumen of the coach.

That, to me, doesn’t seem to be much of a challenge. And, I don’t worry that they are peaking too soon.

The section playoff loss to Livingston was a bitter disappointment and — talking to several players — it hangs over the squad as its No. 1 motivating factor this season.

The competition — especially between Livingston and Hilmar — will not be any easier this season, but the Tigers should be looked at as a contender throughout the season.

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