Through the first eight games of the season, the Taft 7-12 boys soccer team has lost just one game.
The early success has created quite the buzz around Tiger soccer and head coach Ryan Ulicni is looking for big things from this group of players.
“There is no ceiling for these guys,” Ulicni said. “I know that by the playoffs these boys will show you some of the best soccer in the league. Not only do I believe that, but they do too. That's what’s going to win a State Championship.”
Last week Taft played a pair of games on the road. First against Gervais on Oct. 2, who Ulicni described as a young and inexperienced team. Because of that, the Tigers took full advantage, scoring goal after goal, after goal.
“Gervais was a very young team and we were able to use the game to work on some focus points we needed,” Ulicni said.
Throughout the night, the Tigers would tally 18 goals in total and were led by senior Edson Fuentes who notched six of his own. Juniors William Calderon and Jose Flores scored three goals a piece in the match, while sophomore Sammy Vasquez and junior Mauricio Rivas each scored two. Juniors Alex Del Valle and Kevin Acosta also tacked on a goal each in the high scoring 19-0 affair.
“The biggest strength these boys have is their chemistry,” Ulicni said. “It takes years to get to know one another and used to how each other play the game. It's incredible to watch them work so well with each other.”
That momentum from the big win seemed to carry right on over to the next game against Delphian on Oct. 4. In a league battle against a traditionally strong Dragons team, Taft was able to control the tempo of the game and pulled off a 3-1 victory.
“Delphian is always a great match up for us,” Ulicni said. “Seeing the boys apply their newly honed skills in that game was very exciting. It was nice to see the confidence in our team getting some wins last week.”
In the contest last Friday, Calderon scored two goals to lead Taft while fellow captain Fuentes added another goal to his already impressive season total. Scoring goals is something Taft has done in abundance this season, racking up 57 total through eight games. But what has made this team complete is there success defensively as well. After the first eight games the Tigers have only allowed five goals.
However, Ulicni said there are still some things his team can improve on before they head to post season play later this month.
“With every game we find some things to work on,” Ulicni said. “Being open and honest with the team and having them acknowledge their own mistakes as well as mine. We can overcome our faults together and grow stronger as a team.”
This week, after facing Salem Academy tonight, Taft returns home for a matchup with Blanchet Catholic on Thursday, Oct. 10 at 6:30 p.m. Ulicni said confidence will be key to adding two more wins to their total this week.
“Completing a full game without losing focus from start to finish (winning or losing) is the trick,” Ulicni said. “We know we can compete with any team. Now we have to compete with keeping our self-discipline throughout the rest of the season. I’m looking forward to a great second half of the season.”