Yosemite High School boys varsity soccer Coach Rick Lemberg is looking towards an exciting season with his young but talented varsity team.
“We are a younger team than last year, with only three seniors who had playing time last year,” Lemberg said. “We also have moved up two freshman and two sophomores from the JV team to play varsity.”
Returning seniors are Oliver Curley, Tyler McIntyre, and Summit Pears, who will serve as team captains this season.
“We are counting on these guys to have a big year,”said Lemberg, who is entering his fifth season as the team’s coach.
Curley plays center-midfielder, McIntyre plays back, and Pears is currently playing at the sweeper position.
McIntrye said the team’s overall skill levels are higher than last year, which will make for a better team.
Curley feels the team has a good chance to win league with the talent from last year, combined with this year’s new players.
“Everyone seems more dedicated this year, and that will pay-off for us in the long run,” Curley said.
Other seniors on the team are Keegen Brown (back), Eric de la Para (forward), Alex Dugovic (mid-fielder), and Gregory Royse (back).
“These four seniors will provide a much needed depth to our team,” Lemberg said.
Juniors dominate the team roster including Paul Esposito (forward), Tyler Wallace (back), and Travis and Trevor Wood (mid-fielder/back) are all returners from last year’s team. New to the team this year are juniors Jarret Barone (back), Kevin Kirk (keeper), Quentin Lawrence (mid-fielder), Jonathon Mulkey (forward), Brendon Rhoan (back), and Andrew Volpetti (mid-fielder).
There are four underclassmen on the team: Sophomores Joe Campbell (back), and Juan Solis (forward), and freshman Connor Wallace (mid-fielder), and Russell Zelazo (back).
“These four athletes will not only provide us help this year, but they will form the nucleus of our future teams,” Lemberg said.
The Badgers participated in the Dec. 5 and 6 Sierra Tournament, getting one win, two loses and a tie.
Yosemite opened the tournament with a 2 - 2 tie with Tranquility, before being beat by Riverdale 2-0. The Badgers then played a strong game against Immanuel, shutting them out with an 8-0 win. In its fourth game, the Badgers were edged by Kerman 1-0. Kerman is always one of the stronger teams in the NSL.
Mulkey and Esposito scored the goals against Tranquility with assists from McIntrye and Travis Wood.
Esposito scored the two goals against Riverdale and another three against Immanuel. Other scores in the Immanuel game were Mulkey (1), McIntrye (1), Travis Wood (2), and Juan Solis (1)
“We actually had a pretty good tournament,” Lemberg said. “Tying Tranquility was a good game for us. When we played Riverdale, we were tied at 0-0 at half time, but suffered a huge loss when team co-captain Oliver Curley (center midfielder) suffered a knee injury which forced him to sit out the rest of the tournament. Riverdale scored on a penalty kick and then got an insurance goal later in the second half.”
In the game for the consolation trophy, Yosemite held off Kerman‘s attacks on the goal again and again.
“That was a combination of Kerman missing shots and our defense playing really well, including our goalkeeper Kevin (Kirk),” Lemberg said
With 10 minutes left in the game, Kerman made a great shot for a goal. Yosemite scored a goal a few minutes later, but were called for “off-sides” and had the point taken away.
“Although Kerman clearly was stronger than we were, our guys played great considering we did not have our center midfielder,” Lemberg said.
“We got off to a slow start this season for two reasons,” Lemberg explained. “First, we lost our JV coach from last year and it has taken quite a while to find a new coach. Our new JV coach is Jenny Sultana. We are excited to have her helping our JV and frosh/soph team. Second, we are installing a slightly different alignment than last year. It is a little more complicated than last year and it will take several games for the players to get acquainted with it.”
Volunteer coaches assisting Lemberg this season include Bill Stolp, Adam Kernaghan, Chris Prigmore, Carson Burton, and Alex Salazar.
“These gentlemen bring a lot of soccer experience and much help to our program,” said Lemberg.
Lemberg is happy with the good turn-out of 47 players this year, allowing him to have varsity, JV, and frosh-soph teams.
“Historically, Washington Union, Chowchilla, and Kerman have been the favorites to win league, although a strong team is expected this year from Liberty, and Sierra always gives us a difficult time in soccer,” Lemberg said. I expect us to be competitive, to win more games than we did last year, and to hopefully, make a run into the playoffs.
The team ended last year’s NSL season with a 2-6-2 record.