Erika Garcia (center) and her teammates look to win the Orange Empire Conference title this season (Dominic Ebel/Lariat)
The Gauchos have reloaded their roster with some pretty talented athletes coming here competing for spots to play. The team looks in good shape after seeing the energy of the girls on display.
“We lost a couple of great players. Danyella Allen scored 50 goals in her time here,” head coach BJ McNicol said. “That’s a big number to replace setting the record here.”
The talented Allen was double teamed as she was a threat to score even in the toughest Orange Empire Conference. The Gauchos were anchored by the exceptional goalkeeper Alex Scott who will be hard to replace.
“Last year Allen was the Orange Empire Conference MVP player of the year,” McNicol said. “We could have a couple of candidates who could win that honor again.”
The bottom line goal is making the Southern California playoffs as the Gauchos will be setting their sites starting in pre-season and then in the OEC.
“Our focus is make it back to the playoffs, make more of a run,” assistant coach Sean Melendez said. “Hopefully the South Orange County soccer fans can come out and give us support.”
The rally call is on the fans to come out joining in on college level soccer here where this team is picking up on last year’s team success. This is a hard working team of returnees and the new group of players coming together, making it a terrific team again.
“We have technical players like we had last year,” sophomore, midfielder Danielle Scelsi said. “We are continuing developing as a team and getting closer to the ability as a team to earn the desired wins.”
This is a good group of soccer players being well coached by McNicol’s staff looking to place players in positions to excel on the field. At this point the players know every position spot will be earned on the field by their efforts shown on the field.
“We are looking to see if the kids are in their spots, to see who’s going to battle for the starting spots,” Melendez said. “This year we have a lot of explosive attack oriented players.”
It’s going to be tough to replace the loss of Devin Scelsi from last year, as she is attending Washington and has switched to playing club for now. For this year, stand out player returning midfielder, Danielle Scelsi is mentioned by the coaching staff to look for her being selected as a candidate for MVP in the OEC.
“I think right now we have a standout player in Danielle Scelsi as she is a strong and fit all around player,” Melendez said. “I really feel she is going to have a breakout year and will be in the MVP talks.”
Head coach BJ McNichol prepares the team during a group meeting. (Dominic Ebel/Lariat)
Melendez has mentioned sophomore, forward Amber Martin as playing out on the wing. She is very creative and will be fun to watch in action. McNichol is cautiously optimistic on his prediction as he thinks his team is a good comprehensive soccer team with a lot of depth all over the field.
“I think Sean and BJ’s soccer philosophy is awesome and they are doing everything they can to make this team the best team to win,” freshman, forward Emily Monnig said. “We have a strong attacking offense and strong defense with Rachel Edelstein in the center.”
Incoming players are confident as this team shows freshman, midfielder Rachel Edelstein and her teammates will have big shoes to fill from the loss of last year players on defense, at the halfback, and midfield positions.
“With such a large group I think chemistry wise we are where we want to be right now,” Melendez said. “We have two kids who stand out now at goalie and as of now it will be a split decision or even split time at goalie.”
Former JSerra High School keeper Angelica Ramos comes to Saddleback and shows impressive talent. Top keepers start with Ramos who competes with Shana Leventhal, Tamera Attica, Savanna Hilton, and Avalon Mackey.
Last year’s keeper, Scott will be a hard act to follow. Another player who will be missed is redshirt sophomore, defender, Julianna Caldwell who anchored the defense last year.
“We have a pretty tough pre-season to maximize our power points as all our pre-season games are away,” McNicol said. “We know our Conference is the toughest in the State so we want to prepare with a stringent pre-season as well.”
The Gauchos even have a couple of players on their team that did not play high school soccer and only played for club teams.
“I’m a basketball player out of Dana Hills. I played club soccer. We do a lot of team bonding,” freshman Neusha Afrasiabi said. “I expect us to do our best and see what happens.”
Another good player out of Mission Viejo High School is freshman, midfielder Mackenzie Galaz who played club soccer. She is working really hard at practice she is hoping the team’s hard work will get them better than their top opponents.
Another player who spoke up willing to contribute was freshman, midfielder Erika Garcia who said she is bonding with her teammates on and off the field.
They have truly been preparing themselves since summer time, training in the weight room as well as on the soccer field to bring themselves to give their best effort as a team this season.