Atascadero returns core players
ATASCADERO — The Atascadero High School boys soccer team experienced an up-and-down season last year when they went 12-14-2 overall but came on strong at the end of the year, winning eight of their final 10 regular-season games to finish second in the Ocean League.
“We did some things last year and we are building on that,” Atascadero head coach Gary Setting said. “And now I feel like we are right back where we were at the end of last year’s season, so we are really trying to polish things a little bit.”
The Hounds return 14 players from a year ago, including key contributors — Julio Lopez, JJ Subia, Titus Ayala, Martin Anguiano and goalkeeper Seth Camp. Despite their under .500 overall record, Atascadero went 9-3 in the Ocean League, placing second behind the 10-2 Eagles who graduated more than 10 seniors off their roster and are primed to make a run at the title this year.
Atascadero has experience at all three levels and expects to be solid throughout the midfield as they return the entire unit from a year ago.
Just as they did last year, Atascadero scheduled a brutal preseason slate of games that got them off to an 0-3 start. They began to bounce back in the Cats and Hounds tournament they joint hosted with Paso Robles over the weekend.
The tournament was held at four different locations on the Central Coast (Atascadero High School, Paso Robles High School, War Memorial Stadium and Morro Bay High School) and welcomed 13 different schools including Tranquility, Elsinore, Orcutt Academy, Righetti, Coast Union, Sanger, San Marcos, Mission Prep, Lemoore, Cabrillo, Avenal, Morro Bay and Santa Barbara to compete against Atascadero and Paso Robles.
The Santa Barbara Dons walked away as the weekend champions, defeating Morro Bay, Nipomo, Paso Robles and then San Marcos in the finale.
The Hounds went 2-2 over the weekend but found their offense as they kicked the tournament off with a 5-1 victory over Tranquility. In the win, Atascadero showcased what they can do when firing on all cylinders. The midfield held the ball and controlled the flow of the game and then spread it out wide to their wings when they saw an opportunity.
Senior forward Wyatt Hasch recorded 2 goals and an assist in the game as his speed was too much for the Tranquility defenders and he used it to get past the defense. While the Hounds scored five goals in the game, they could have scored 12 if their shots were on target.
Atascadero was knocked out of the winner’s bracket by a heartbreaking loss in penalty kicks in their second game against Elsinore that went to overtime tied at 2-2. On Saturday, the Hounds won their first game of the day over the Righetti Warriors via forfeit and fell to Lemoore 2-0 playing shorthanded as two-time team captain and goalie Seth Camp missed the game to take the S.A.T. which landed Hasch in goal.
Setting and the Hounds know they have a real shot at winning the Ocean League this year as the reigning champions graduated more than 12 players off their team from last season.
“They know each other — they are playing well together, we have a huge roster, so I am really focusing on trying to develop some other players this preseason, so we are set in the case of an injury or something like that,” Setting said. “And one of the things we learned last year was just staying more conditioned throughout the season. It has been raining these last couple weeks and we have been out running on the track and doing things because they recognize that last year at the end of the season in our final game and CIF that we had two or three guys on the bench that we needed and some of it was just conditioning. We are committed to being a little bit stronger this year.”
Along with Camp, Setting has elected sophomore Julio Lopez, an attacking midfielder that was a big part of Atascadero’s success last year, as the team’s other captain and has spent the preseason working on his leadership.
“I still need to improve my game,” Lopez said. “I need to be more consistent and now I can’t just focus on me but also on the team and have to control the whole field and make sure my teammates are doing their jobs.”
After the weekend, the Hounds are 2-5 and open league play on Tuesday, Dec. 10, when they get their first crack at the Templeton Eagles.