During the shortened 2020-21 high school sports season, the challenges of the pandemic and remote learning were felt especially hard on the West Side. One of the teams most impacted by the ever-changing reality was the Cabrillo boys’ soccer team.
Due to eligibility issues, opt-outs, and injuries, the Jags were almost unrecognizable from the start of the season to the finish. An uncharacteristically young and inexperienced roster struggled for Cabrillo out of the gate, but once the Jags approached their full complement of players, things improved down the stretch with a strong crop of seniors on the pitch.
Over its last four matches in Moore League play, the Jags went 3-0-1, culminating with a 2-0 win over league title contender Millikan on the final day of the regular season.
Longtime head coach Pat Noyes said he’s taking nothing from that late spurt to close the year, knowing that he’ll need to start over again with a young roster. But with a full offseason to work with this team, and strong numbers throughout all three levels of the program, there’s optimism that Cabrillo will have better results from the outset in 2021-22.
“I’m really happy with this team, we’re just real, real young,” said Noyes. “We’re going to be fine technically, tactically and physically, it’s how are we going to compete mentally? That’s the same in every sport, right? It’s going to be how we do mentally, but I think we’re strong.”
Noyes is particularly high on junior center back David Cruz, who he thinks will be his team’s top player this season.
“He’s like a man among boys,” said Noyes of Cruz. “He’s just super smooth as a center back. Physically, he’s super strong, he plays in men’s leagues, not kids’ leagues. He’s the real deal.”
Cruz will anchor the Cabrillo back line, with veteran right back Miguel Ruiz again holding down right back as a senior. Both will play in front of a senior goalkeeper, but as of now it’s tough to tell which one. Noyes has two senior keepers battling for the No. 1 spot, and both bring a different skill set to the pitch. Danny Martinez is a big, tall keeper over 6-feet tall, whereas Kevin Ventura is a small but skilled keeper who is comfortable bringing the ball forward and using his feet.
Speedy midfielder Kiké Temores is another senior who figures to be in the Jags’ starting 11, and he’ll help solidify a talented midfield. Martin Ruiz will slot into the No. 10 role as the attacking midfielder for Cabrillo, and Noyes noted how dangerous he can be in possession.
“He’s just so good on the ball,” said Noyes of Ruiz. “Now his issue is, he needs to make all the players around him better, and we need to make sure that when he gets going, making 3-4-5 touches, we don’t start watching. But he’s just so good on the ball it’s hard to take him off the ball at all.”
Another weapon for the Cabrillo attack will be sophomore winger Duanne Baker, who got some varsity experience as a freshman last season. He has tremendous pace, and Noyes says that his finishing has improved during the offseason. Baker also plays in the Elite Club National League (ECNL) so he should be an exciting young player to keep an eye on this season.
Baker is one of a handful of sophomores who got a taste of varsity competition during the spring and will be counted on to be a key contributor this season. The young Jags will benefit from having a full offseason of training as well as the chance to play some preseason games before Moore League gets underway. Cabrillo has some games against lower division teams like Whitney, Oxford Academy and Avalon, but also some tough tests against Santa Ana, La Habra and St. John Bosco.
Cabrillo will get a big test out of the gate once league play starts, hosting Millikan in their Moore League opener on Dec. 15. With their inexperience, coupled with the weirdness of last season, it’s tough to know quite what to expect from the Jaguars this season. Oddly enough, the Jags will end their league schedule with four consecutive home games down the stretch, and Noyes is hoping those will be meaningful matches in the league standings.
“Honestly, if we get in the playoffs, I’ll be extremely happy,” he said. “Having gone through last year and being as young as we are, I would like to say that we have a chance to compete in the league and I’m not going to tell my team anything different. It’ll just be one game at a time and we’ll see what happens.”