But Milwaukie coach Roberto Aguilar says he expects the NWOC to continue as one of the stronger Class 5A leagues in the state
You wouldnt know it from preseason, but the coaches believe that the Northwest Oregon Conference will continue as one of the tougher Class 5A boys soccer leagues in the state.
A lot of the teams are playing strong 6A Metro League teams or 4A state champion Stayton, said Milwaukie coach Roberto Aguilar. Our records are poor, but the losses are mostly against strong teams, mostly 6A. Its all about the [OSAA] rankings and [state playoff] seeding.
A year ago no fewer than five teams from the NWOC advanced past the play-in round to the state playoffs. Wilsonville and Liberty both lost by one-goal in the quarterfinals, the Falcons bowing out with a 3-2 loss to eventual state champion Woodburn. Putnam and Sherwood were quarterfinalists in 2011; three NWOC teams made the quarterfinals in 2010 and Liberty made the semifinals.
I think Wilsonville will be the top team in the league this year, said Aguilar. I think Rex Putnam will be right up there as the second best team. Ive watched them play. Theyre skilled and they look big compared to our kids.
Through play Sept. 19, Wilsonville (3-2-0) was the only NWOC team with a winning record in preseason. Overall, the NWOC had a win-loss-tie record of 8-27-1 in games with preseason opponents.
Aguilar says that Milwaukie has players with skills, but they are young and they are skill trying to get used to the faster and more intense and physical level of varsity play.
Every game has been an improvement, said Aguilar. Its mostly confidence, and getting used to the speed and intensity.
Through play Sept. 18, the Mustangs record was 1-4-0, with losses to 6A teams from Westview (7-0), Aloha (3-0) and Barlow (4-0) and 5A power Hermiston (1-0).
The Mustangs picked up their first win and their first goal last week, when they edged Lebanon 1-0, winning on a last-minute goal by Giovanni Hernandez.
Aguilar said of the lack of production on offense, Theyve been playing long ball, and that is not the style I like. They need to learn to pass the ball, connect the dots, and play together as a team.
In addition to the tough schedule and playing too much long ball, injuries have played a part in the Mustangs slow start. Aguilar has been forced to go with a very young and inexperienced lineup, with returning starters Edgar Pantoja (forward), Alex Cacho (midfield) and Kevin Villanueva (defense) all sidelined by injuries.
The team is very young, Aguilar observed. We had 12 seniors last year. This year we have only three seniors, four returning varsity players, and three of them are out [with injuries]....
Aguilar has been going with a varsity lineup that includes five sophomores sophomores Hernandez and Jacob Cates at forward; juniors Alex Alfaro and Jesus Ayala in the midfield, along with sophomores Hector Estrada and Han Helfrich; junior Peter Garcia at sweeper; juniors Kekoa Carreira and Vance Quarton and sophomore Seth Atkerson on defense; and senior Randall Sam in-goal.
Sam was the Mustangs starting goalie last year until near mid-season, when he was injured. Aguilar played him on the field when he returned.
Milwaukie hosts Dallas this Thursday in its final tuneup for NWOC play. The Mustangs conference opener is Thursday, Oct. 3, when they entertain St. Helens.