2017 Boys' Soccer Preview

By ROBERT NIEDZWIECKI | The Winchester Star

A lot of people thought the Handley boys’ soccer team would be the team to beat in the area in 2016, and they were right —
the Judges romped to an 18-0 start before losing in the 4A West Region quarterfinals to Charlottesville.

This year? It’s hard to tell.

Handley lost eight seniors from last year’s team, including seven who earned All-Conference 21 West honors. Foremost
among them are Seth Bridgeforth (33 goals, 12 assists) — The Winchester Star and Conference 21 West Boys’ Soccer Player
of the Year — and Jesus Rojo-Trejo (20 goals, 25 assists), who’s now playing at Eastern Mennonite University.

Each of the four Winchester-Frederick County schools won at least seven games last year, and Harrisonburg won 12 games
and advanced to the 4A West Region tournament. Woodgrove only one game last year. But the Wolverines have a new coach
in Benjamin Mertell, and they defeated Harrisonburg 2-0 in a scrimmage.

Millbrook coach Keith Kilmer has never been hesitant to single out a team if he thinks they’re stronger than the rest in the
preseason, or not mention a team if he doesn’t think they’re strong.

But he thinks the battles for area and conference supremacy will be fierce this year because anyone can win. All the coaches
believe the conference race is wide-open.

“There’s not a local team that I’ll even begin to look past, because I think they all have talent,” Kilmer said. “It’s going to be a
dogfight locally.”

The Judges will look to stay on top with a new head coach. Cosmo Balio resigned after 11 seasons on Wednesday, and five-
year Judges assistant Scott Bucey has been tabbed as his replacement (see related story).

Bucey said he expects Handley’s scoring to be more evenly distributed this season. And the Judges do have people who
can create scoring chances with senior midfielder Saber El-Abani (four goals, nine assists) and junior midfielder Chris Nerangis
(second team all-conference, five assists). Sophomore forward Erik Velasquez is also expected to play a big role in his first
year on the team.

“I think the goals are going to be a little more spread out this year, which is a good thing,” Bucey said. “I don’t see us just
relying on two players to score the goals. We could get four or five players that are in double-digit goals hopefully.”

Handley returns a second team all-conference defender in junior center back Andrew McIntyre, but Bucey is undecided right
now as to who will replace Haniel Lopez-Cajaro (11 shutouts) in goal. Two players are in competition to replace him, and
Bucey would like to settle on one.

The Judges aren’t the only team losing some big-time playmakers.

Millbrook’s Brian McGuire led the area in goals last year with 34 while chipping in 11 assists, while Jonathan Richards had 11
goals and 15 assists.

But the Pioneers will feature plenty of offensive weapons, including second team All-Conference 21 West selection junior
midfielder/forward Paul Blanco (six goals, six assists), who had a goal and an assist in Millbrook’s first scrimmage against
Liberty. Freshman Ronald Velasquez and senior Alex Leanos are also expected to provide scoring punch.

“I’m going to move Blanco up to striker possibly to let him attack,” Kilmer said. “I might bounce Ronald back and forth between
midfield and striker. Ronald definitely has a nose for the goal.”

Millbrook also features two other All-Conference 21 West selections in junior midfielder Darin Douglas and senior defender
Kevin Valyear, who will play sweeper.

Millbrook also brings back two goalkeepers in seniors Dylan Frederick and Chris Kozlowski (a four-year varsity player like
fellow co-captain and midfielder Hans Kloo) that Kilmer feels are “the best two in town.” Each of those two saw significant time
last season, and Kilmer says they’ll split time this year unless one takes ownership of the job.

Sherando returns eight starters, and the Warriors are led by 4A West Region honorable mention selections Sean Buono
(seven goals, eight assists) and Seth Wade (four goals, seven assists).

“We’re going to count on their leadership and keeping us organized on the field,” Anderson said. “We still have a lot of
younger kids and guys coming up from the JV. Hopefully we’ll get things from them as they work with each other. Wade could
play in the midfield, he can play up top, he can play on the outside, he may even play in the back a little bit to start the
season.”

In addition to Wade and Buono, the Warriors also bring back two other all-conference selections in senior Nathan Wagner (five
goals) and junior Jacob Crowley, who will anchor the defense. With Brandon Teets gone after having played in 13 games last
year, Anderson said he must decide between three people to play at goalkeeper and will split time amongst them early in the
season.

James Wood must replace 12 seniors and eight starters from last year’s team, which won seven games after winning only
three in 2015.

But Colonels coach Brian Sullivan has a lot of faith in a team that will be led by senior forward Aidan Houser, the only returning
public school player who scored double-digit goals last season. Houser earned first team All-Conference 21 West honors after
recording 16 goals and nine assists. Senior forward Liam Ebert also returns after scoring six goals last year.

“It’s definitely tough losing 12 seniors, but I’m inspired and intrigued by this group,” Sullivan said. “There’s a lot of potential
within this group. There’s a lot of chemistry amongst the guys, and we’ve been working hard to replace those 12 seniors.
We’re younger with probably three freshmen starting this year. We hope to not have a letdown, and hopefully we build on last
season’s win total.”

Since Harrisonburg and Woodgrove don’t play each other during the regular season, the Conference 21 West standings will
once again be determined by points per game. A win is worth three points and a tie is worth one.

In Group 2A, Clarke County will be led by its new coach, Patrick Casey, a former Eagles player who graduated in 2009. The
Eagles lost nine seniors from last year’s team, but they do bring back two All-Bull Run District second team selections in junior
defender/midfielder Ian Smith and senior goalkeeper Seth Mayo.

Clarke County went 9-7-1 last year but scored only 21 goals. Henry Leta, who graduated, had eight of those.

“We’re looking to Nick Bahamonde and Evan Nichols for a lot of our goals, but the plan is to get more guys contributing,”
Casey said. “We don’t want to rely on one person getting all the goals. It really should be a team effort, getting a lot of guys
forward.”

The Eagles’ main competition in Conference 35 will be George Mason, winners of four consecutive state championships.

A glance at each area team:

Handley

Coach: Scott Bucey, first year.

Last year: 18-1 (8-0 Northwestern District); Northwestern District regular season champions, Conference 21 West tournament
champions, lost to Charlottesville in 4A West Region quarterfinals.

Key losses: Seth Bridgeforth, Jesus Rojo-Trejo, Joe Brink, Haniel Lopez-Cajaro, Jorge Cruz-Cruz, Rosser Sirbaugh, Hardel
Santos-Sanchez, Norman Au.

Top returners: Chris Nerangis, Jr., M; Andrew McIntyre, Jr., D; Saber El-Abani, Sr., M.; Raheem Smith, Sr., M.; Nathan
Langford (6 goals), Sr., M/F.

Top newcomers: Erik Velasquez, So., F; Hunter Roberts, So., GK; Henry Reynoso-Paiz, Fr., GK.

Bucey’s outlook: “We definitely lost a lot of starters, but we were so deep last year that we pretty much played 18 players a
game. We’re going to have to be at our best if we want to repeat winning the conference. We expect a lot out of Saber in the
central midfield. He’s a really hard-working, feisty type player. He’s definitely going to be big for us. I really think what we built
last year in terms of unity and team mind-set is one of the biggest strengths we have going for us. We don’t have people out
there just playing for themselves. That’s going to help us be organized defensively. All the guys are coachable.”

First game: Tuesday at Spotswood, 7:30 p.m.

Millbrook

Coach: Keith Kilmer, eighth year.

Last year: 10-5-3 (5-2-1 Northwestern District); lost to Harrisonburg in Conference 21 West semifinals.

Key losses: Brian McGuire, Jonathan Richards, Ricardo Sanchez, Alex Hicks, Matt Hershberger, Tim Holzer.

Top returners: Paul Blanco, Jr. M/F; Darin Douglas, Jr., M; Kevin Valyear, Sr., D; Dylan Frederick, Sr., GK; Chris Kozlowski,
Sr., GK; Zach Hicks, Jr., D (8 assists); Alex Leanos, Sr., F; Osman Montano, Jr., M/F; Malik Perloff, Jr., M; Jacob Hansbrough,
So., D; Noe Nolasco, Jr., D; Patricio Ramirez-Granillo, Sr., M.

Top newcomers: Ronald Velasquez, Fr., M/F; Ayrton Justice, Fr., F.

Kilmer’s outlook: “Zach [Hicks] has been a left outside back for us his first two years, and he’s going to stop for us this year.
He scored his first-ever goal in [the Liberty] scrimmage. I want him to attack out of the stopper position like Tyler Anderson did
from that spot [in 2014, when Anderson scored 14 goals despite missing six games]. For the team as a whole, chemistry
could be our biggest strength. These guys are adapting, learning and working with each other. This is my 14th year total at
Millbrook, and I’ve never had a team with chemistry like this. Add in that they’re very athletic and very experienced soccer
players, and we will be competitive.”

First game: Wednesday vs. Broadway, 7 p.m.

Sherando

Coach: Pat Anderson, 24th year.

Last year: 7-8-2 (4-4 Northwestern District); lost to Handley in Conference 21 West semifinals.

Key losses: Travis Ferraro, Jack Flanagan, Brandon Teets.

Top returners (positions were not provided for all players): Sean Buono, Sr., F/M; Seth Wade, Sr., M/F; Jacob Crowley, Jr., D;
Jonah Pearson, Sr.; Isaac Prock, Sr. M; Nathan Wagner Sr., D; Nathan Laing, So., M/F, Eli Racey, So., M/F; Victor Pinto, Sr.
M/D; Max Polio, Jr. M (3 goals, 4 assists); Nic Craig, Sr., D; Kameron Chapman, Sr.; Renzo Blasutto, Jr., M; Luke White, Jr.,
Jacob Sites, Sr. D; Mike Leckie, So., Mike Berry, Jr., GK; Matt Jolin, Sr., GK.

Top newcomers: Spencer Scott, GK.

Anderson’s outlook: “Having steady players like Nathan Wagner and Jacob Crowley in the back will help. Nic Craig should
help in the back too. He had some nagging injuries that slowed him down last year. I think defensively we’ll be sound,
because we’ve got a number of people we can play back there. Overall it’s a good core group. We’ve got a great group of
[11] seniors that have played together for a long time. There’s a lot of potential.”

First game: Wednesday vs. Woodgrove, 7 p.m.

James Wood

Coach: Brian Sullivan, third year.

Last year: 7-9-1 (2-5-1 Northwestern District); lost to Sherando in Conference 21 West first round.

Key losses: Cole Morris, Trent Kite, Alec Hager, Colin Watts, William Pugh, Jacob Parrish.

Top returners: Aidan Houser, Sr., F; Liam Ebert, Sr., F; Daniel Sabia, Sr., D; Xavier Kallash-Kyler, Jr., M (4 goals).

Top newcomers: Ethan Russell, Fr., GK; Paul Ebersole, Fr., M.

Sullivan’s outlook: “I expect Aidan to be competing for conference player of the year. He’s definitely a huge leader on the
team. He’s definitely an outstanding athlete, and someone that is a role model in the school as well. Xavier and Paul will play a
lot of center mid for us. Daniel will play center back for us. He’s worked hard in the last couple of months to communicate and
build that new rapport with our new back line. Ethan is an [Olympic Development Program] keeper. He’s one of the most
composed individuals I’ve ever seen. He’s fundamentally extremely strong, he’s vocal, and he’s going to be a leader of our
team.”

First game: Friday vs. Clarke County, 7 p.m.

Clarke County

Coach: Patrick Casey, first year.

Last year: 9-7-1 (9-4-1 Bull Run District); lost to Central in Conference 35 semifinals.

Key losses: Henry Leta, Chase Fletcher, Keaton Leta.

Top returners: Seth Mayo, Sr., GK; Ian Smith, Jr., D/M; Robbie Moore, Jr., D; Edwin Villanueva, So., M; Josh Poe, So., M;
Evan Nichols, So., F; Tristan Price, Sr., D.

Top newcomers: Matias Camacho-Bruno, So., M; Nick Bahamonde, So., F.

Casey’s outlook: “The back line is going to dictate how we play. Robbie Moore is going to be directing a lot of stuff from the
back for us. He’s got a lot of size, plays really smart, keeps the ball. He’s a really good leader that sets the tone every day in
practice for us. We’ll be counting on Matias, Josh Poe and Edwin Villanueva in the midfield. The three of those guys will rotate
a lot as far as their positioning. As long as we keep everybody healthy and playing at a top level, I think we can really do
something this year.”

First game: Friday at James Wood, 7 p.m.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1

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