With ten experienced sophomores returning, including almost the entire starting defensive line, the Allan Hancock College men's soccer team enters the 2017 season with high expectations. Billy Vinnedge returns for his fourth season as head coach of the Bulldogs.
"I am excited about the experience we have on our squad. We have some key starters back we expect big things from this year and talent on the bench," said Vinnedge.
Migel Gomez, who ranked ninth in California last season with 11 assists last season, returns at forward. The Cabrillo High School graduate scored 10 goals season season, including three game-winning goals for the Bulldogs.
"We know what to expect this season and established a lot better chemistry than we had at this point last year," said Gomez, whom Vinnedge predicted would establish himself as one of the top forwards in the state this season.
The defense will be anchored by sophomore defenders Anjel Mendez, Mario Delgado, Ulysses Perez and Joseph Goryance. Mendez was an all-conference pick his freshman season in 2015. Goryance earned all-conference honors last season.
"I feel really good about our team this year. We have more returners, a solid core of starters and subs," said Goryance, an Arroyo Grande High School graduate.
Last year, Hancock finished 5-14-2 overall and 3-7 in Western State Conference play. The Bulldogs say the way in which they lost many of those games provided extra motivation in the offseason.
"The key for us this year is finishing out games," said Vinnedge. "Last year, we blew second-half leads in more than 10 games that we ended up losing. In order to prevent that from happening again, we focused on conditioning even more in the spring and summer."
"We learned about the importance of conditioning the hard way last season. The team made improving our endurance a priority this offseason to prepare," added Goryance.
Freshman Antony Herrera earned the starting goal keeper position in camp. The Righetti High School graduate has impressed coaches, including first-year assistant coach Erubey Ponce.
"Tony is an incredibly hard worker, very coachable and extremely talented. We have high expectations for him," said Ponce, a former Hancock goalie who became an all-conference keeper at Waldorf University.
Francisco Ayala, who earned all-conference honors as a freshman, returns from a one-yard break to anchor the Hancock midfield. Ayala, Gomez and Goryance will serve as team captains this season.
The Bulldogs open the 2017 season with three home games starting Friday, August 25, against Monterey Peninsula. Hancock hosts Bakersfield on Tuesday, August 29, before welcoming Taft on Friday, September 1. All three matches start at 4 p.m.