For the boys soccer teams in the Sonoma County League, the No. 1 spot is as high as it gets without the North Bay League — which is moving to winter season — to duel with for top North Coast Section honors.
And for the Petaluma Trojans, the opportunity to show how competitive the SCL truly is will be the main goal of this season.
“Their goal is to win another championship,” Petaluma coach Greg Lamansky said. “The SCL is highly competitive but after that, there’s really nothing. It’s really motivating for us to show that we should be playing in winter, as well.”
The Trojans will look to senior midfielder Tyler Guptill, who spent his preseason with an injury.
“He’s definitely our leader,” Lamanksy said. “He’s the vocal one, while Luis Rodriguez Flores is the rock of our defense.”
Petaluma graduated five seniors from its NCS championship team, and had to focus some time on restructuring — as well as keeping an eye on the welfare of the athletes who are also participating on club teams.
The Analy Tigers were the second-place finisher last year, as they closed out their 2014 season with a 15-5-1 overall record.
They face the Piner Prospectors in their season opener on Sept. 16; the Prospectors finished in sixth place with a 2-12-1 overall record.
Followed by Elsie Allen, Healdsburg and Sonoma Valley, the El Molino Lions round out a highly competitive SCL.
In a program that isn’t known for its success, first-year El Molino coach Dave Rosales said he knows the reputation but is ready to start competing.
“I want to build this program up,” he said, “make it competitive in the SCL.”
The Lions graduated nine players, and with four seniors, Rosales said he’s getting the numbers needed.
Senior Tupelo Morris and junior goalkeeper Lalo Sanchez are at the helm of the young team, and while some teams have conflict with the schedules of club teams, Rosales knows that Morris and Sanchez’s club-team experiences are beneficial and extremely motivating at El Molino.
With their league opener against reigning champ Petaluma, the Lions are prepared for every goal in every game to get a win this season, Rosales said.
“Every match for us is a big match,” he said, “especially coming off last year’s record.”
For the SCL girls, the bull’s-eye is typically set on the backs of the Analy Tigers and the Petaluma Trojans. The added pressure simply comes with the territory, Analy coach Brittney Briones said.
“There’s always an expectation of success,” she said, “but if the success comes from simply working together and building a cohesive unit, we will get further this year because of it.”
The Tigers held an undefeated record in 2014 until the playoffs. As they start their rebuilding year, Briones said there are high expectations of the underclassmen.
Under the experienced wing of forward Sami Zepponi and defender Amanda Nebozuk, both seniors, the Tigers have their watchful eyes on rival Petaluma.
The 2014 SCL runner-up will also be a team to experience a little rebuilding, graduating nine seniors from the squad that finished with a 12-4-2 record. The Trojans beat top seed Analy in the second round of the NCS playoffs, but their season ended with a 2-1 loss to Montgomery four days later.