San Lorenzo Valley High senior Dempsey Miller was instrumental in helping the Cougars boys' soccer team finish with a winning record this season. (Liz Chisler/contributed)

San Lorenzo Valley High boys’ soccer team has historically not been one of the strongest programs in the area. In fact, Twitter had just launched the last time they had a winning season in 2006. 

However, there was a slight turnaround this season for the Cougars, who finished with a 6-5-2 overall record and applied for an at-large bid for the Central Coast Section playoffs.

“It really feels nice to kind of leave a mark on our school just because we haven’t had a winning record in 16 years,” said SLV senior Miles Carrington. “I’m really proud of the whole team and how we played this season.”

If they qualify, it will be the second time in nearly 30 years that SLV will have earned a trip to the postseason.

They would learn after Thursday’s seeding meeting to see if they had qualified or not. The meeting was ongoing prior to this publication’s deadline. 

“Personally for me, it would be really big because in my whole four years we’ve never made it to the playoffs,” Carrington said. “It would be a really big accomplishment for me and I’d be really proud of our team.”

The last time SLV made the playoffs was when it finished 10-7-4 overall in the 2006-07 season.

The Cougars played just three non-league games out of the possible 10 that they could’ve scheduled this season, which might make it a bit more difficult to get in the playoffs. 

They also finished with a 3-5-2 record in Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League play and placed fourth in the league standings.

Former head coach Memo Cardenas stepped down after being in charge of the program for the past eight years. 

Adam Lopez—who is an SLV alumnus—took over the helm this season with help from assistant coaches Dave Chisler and Ken Moberg, who worked with Cardenas and several of the players since they were 7-8 years old.

Twelve of the Cougars’ 18 players compete on club teams over the hill in the South Bay Area including Julian Hughes, Thomas Moberg, Jac Chisler and Owen Garrahan.

Lopez said it’s made a huge difference having players transition from club into high school season. Not only do they continue to hone their skills but they’re also in shape, ready to go. 

“Most of the players are already there,” Lopez said. “It’s invaluable, it’s fantastic that they play club. I advocate for any kid, at whatever level it may be, to keep playing in the spring, fall, winter, summer or whatever it may be.” 

Chisler and Garrahan were part of the local Thunder Club soccer club, which disbanded and forced them to join fellow Cougars’ sophomore teammate Ryan Baker at Silicon Valley Eagles soccer club in San Jose. 

The Eagles soccer club is run by former Turkish international soccer star Hakan Sukur, who scored the fastest ever goal in 10.8 seconds against South Korea at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Sukur coaches the Cougars trio one day a week and is led by head coach Victor Bienvidas—who recruited former SLV standout Kellen Coffis. 

Coffis was part of the 2006-07 team that was runner-up with a 6-3-1 league record behind SCCAL champion Santa Cruz High.

The Cougars got off to a bumpy start following a 3-0 loss to Harbor High in the teams’ SCCAL opener Jan. 3.

Lopez believes it was a great test for them, but in the process they also lost Carrington for the next three games after he was issued a red card.

Lopez had to shift pieces around during the absence of Carrington, who still showed up to practice and was present at each game to support his teammates.

“It was really rough, mainly because it was my first red card of all time,” Carrington said. “I feel like I let the team down and could’ve done better if I was on the field.” 

During his first three seasons on the team, Carrington admits he was timid and quieter than his peers. He stepped up this year by becoming more vocal, letting his teammates know they had a chance to be competitive this season. 

“I just wanted to get my point across and let them know we should try our best and give it our all this season,” he said. 

The biggest thing with Carrington is he has the respect of his teammates and he’s earned it, Lopez said.

“When he says things, people will listen,” Lopez said. “He’s not a very loud kid but when he talks, people will be quiet and listen to him and trust him.”

The season continued with a pair of draws against Santa Cruz and Soquel, and a pair losses to Harbor and Aptos.

Lopez told them it wasn’t going to be an easy path, yet the hard work they continued to put in would eventually pay off.

“I think that’s just a direct correlation of why they played so well at the end of the season,” he said. “It took them a little while but finally they started to trust each other and that’s the biggest thing.”

One match that particularly stood out to Lopez was a 1-0 loss to Aptos in the teams’ second league meeting. He was impressed how the Cougars managed to stick around with the second best team in the SCCAL.

It sparked a flame within the players and SLV ended up winning three of its final four league games, including a 3-2 win over rival Scotts Valley in the season finale on Feb. 8.

Lopez said he’s been fortunate to inherit a group of talented players that have played well together for the extended period of the year. He mentioned the biggest thing was trying to change the culture and making SLV a competitive school so they’re not the lowest on the totem pole, so to speak.

‘Till this day, he reminds players prior to each game to play for the person around them and to trust the person next to them. 

“If they do that, they could beat anyone out there,” Lopez said.

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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