Riverside, Calif. - With fall just around the corner, the men's soccer team is getting ready to open their 2013 season next Wednesday. The new season brings a renewed optimism and many new faces to a program that finished 8-8-1 last season. The Golden Eagles will look to combine their arriving talent along with the return of their leading scorers, toward an exciting 2013 campaign.
This will be the first season the Golden Eagles will compete within the California Pacific Conference. La Sierra will compete in the Cal Pac south division along with Marymount University, SOKA University, University of California-Merced, and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University who is ranked #19 in the NAIA preseason rankings.
The team will welcome back, Roman Santiago and Kenneth Henry, their top two points leaders from last season. Santiago led the team with 10 goals and five assists (25 points) on the year, while Henry finished with eight goals and two assists (18 points) in his first season with the Golden Eagles.
The Golden Eagles also return a handful of experienced players who will help anchor the defense. Joel Hernandez and Darren Bonanken return for their senior season. Hernandez finished last season as the top scoring defender, with four goals on the season. Junior defender Dakota Shelton will join the duo on the backline.
La Sierra is happy to welcome 13 new faces, which includes two red-shirts. Javier Prieto, a junior transfer from Riverside City College, will help the team on the defensive side of the ball. Alonso Lara will also bring a new face to the Golden Eagles in goal. Lara, a junior goalkeeper from Modesto Junior College will look to make an immediate impact to a team that allowed an average of just over two goals per game.
The group of new faces also includes eight true-freshmen. Included in that group is Josue Meza, a mid-fielder from Loma Linda Academy, who will look to make an immediate impact upon his arrival at La Sierra University.
"We have a great group of players that are both talented and experienced, and they will play key roles in the future success of the program," said head coach Jesse Olivas. "We will look for them to help the incoming players adjust to our system of play."
La Sierra will play a total of 16 regular season matches, nine at home and seven away. As the team enters their first season of competition in the Cal Pac, they will look to improve on a 3-4 record against Cal Pac teams last season. "Now that we are members of the Cal Pac, our goal is definitely to be in the top group to make the conference tournament," added Olivas.
Due to their geographic location, they will compete in the tough south division. Embry-Riddle, the defending conference champions are the pre-season favorites, with La Sierra, Marymount, and SOKA looking to play spoilers. And the Golden Eagles have already proved themselves to be worth opponents by defeating Embry-Riddle, 4-3 in their season finale, last year. Coach Olivas summed up his thoughts by adding that he is happy with the group of guys he has assembled on this roster and is excitedly looking forward to the upcoming season.
The team will play one pre-season opponent prior to jumping into the conference season. The Golden Eagles will kick off their season this Wednesday, August 28, when they host Vanguard University, at 6:00pm. The following week, the team will make the first of two trips to northern California to open Cal Pac Conference play. La Sierra will open conference play at William Jessup University (Rocklin, Calif.) on September 4, followed by a match on September 6, at Pacific Union College (Angwin, Calif.). Their Cal Pac Conference home opener will take place on September 15, against SOKA University, following a non-conference match-up with Biola University on September 10, at home. Please click here for a look at the complete 2013 Golden Eagles men's soccer schedule.