Scotts Valley High boys’ soccer coach Adrian Mondragon was faced with a couple of tall tasks during the offseason.
The biggest one: recruit enough players to field a varsity team.
The Falcons currently have a total of 15 players in the entire program. That was after starting goalie Joshua Borkowski dislocated his shoulder and is now scheduled to miss the rest of the season.
The first-year head coach said they are in a rebuilding stage with a young squad made up mainly of freshmen and sophomores. However, he added that the boys are showing great character and an immense fighting spirit.
“Without a goalkeeper, without many subs, with a young team … we kind of have everything stacked against us right now,” Mondragon said.
Mondragon, who was an assistant on the JV team at Watsonville High, said his philosophy now is to be inclusive and allow the players an opportunity to get playing time, especially at the varsity level.
“The kids are young and I can’t change that, so might as well use that to my best advantage for the future and the way I can do that is by giving them the opportunity to get some minutes on the field,” Mondragon said.
Leading the way are seniors Kiran Heine and Ryan Ortiz along with juniors Maksim Sackx, Miles Kennedy and Alan Aragon.
Aragon, who is primarily one of their center backs, has stepped in as goalie for the meantime.
Heine said they’re practically competing with a JV roster with the exception of a couple of seasoned veterans. Still, he believes they’ve made progress since the beginning of the season.
“During the preseason, we weren’t doing too hot but we definitely have improved,” he said.
On Jan. 15, the Falcons saw action for the first time in Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League play after a pair of games were postponed due to weather and Covid-19 protocols.
They earned a 1-1 draw against Santa Cruz High. Heine said that’s when it felt like they started to click as a unit.
“Our effort was definitely at our peak,” he said. “That was when we fully worked as hard as we could and our chemistry was starting to show.”
Sackx put the Falcons on the scoreboard in the 20th minute with a powerful well placed shot from 25 yards out, and Aragon finished with five saves.
Heine said earning the draw against a good league opponent boosted their morale, especially because they weren’t expecting a tie score. He mentioned that the lack of experience can sometimes show during practice but they’ve managed to refocus and it’s shown on the pitch.
“We’ve definitely started to see passing improvements because of our practices,” he said.
The Falcons showed promising glimpses in Tuesday’s game against Aptos High, including well-orchestrated passes in the middle of the field.
The Falcons lost to the Mariners, 3-0, in SCCAL play and dropped to 0-1-1 on the young league season.
Heine said the game plan was to play solid defense and not allow the Mariners to score, which the Falcons did well in the first half. But it was a different story coming out of the halftime break.
“A tie would’ve been good but a loss is not what we wanted,” Heine said. “If we could get a goal on a breakaway that would’ve been ideal to keep them from not scoring.”
Heine said the main thing for them moving forward is to always put out maximum effort during a game or practice. He also wants to see the younger players improve on a daily basis.
“So that moving forward, our teams in the years coming will be a lot better and more equipped,” Heine said.
Mondragon agreed with Heine that right now is the time for the players—both veterans and rookies—to work on getting better as the season goes on.
“The best thing for them to learn, to progress and to get better is at practice,” he said. “It’s going to be baby steps for them playing on the field at the varsity level, but the main thing for them is going to be playing during practice against varsity players.”
Mondragon said he believes he can recruit more players and turn the Falcons’ program around in the near future.
“It’s going to make me grow as a coach,” he said. “Being able to work through all the programs and try to look at alternatives, and really think outside the box how I can make the team get better.”
Up next, the Falcons (1-4-1, 0-1-1) play back-to-back league games starting with a rematch against Santa Cruz on Thursday, followed by a make-up game at home against Soquel High on Friday at 3:30pm.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story read that Scotts Valley coach Adrian Mondragon was an assistant at Pajaro Valley under head coach Juan Roman, which is incorrect. Mondragon was an assistant on the JV team at Watsonville High.