Spartans would like to advance past the state quarterfinals

The Hillsboro boys soccer team has become accustomed to success.

A regular playoff team and contender in the Pacific Conference, Hilhi went 5-1-1 (third place) in league play last year and capped a 10-4-2 season by knocking off 2011 state champion Westview in the first round of the state playoffs before falling to eventual state runner-up Lincoln in the second round.

Continued success this fall should come as no surprise, especially since longtime Hilhi coach Tim Ellsworth brings back a veteran squad.

by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - An orange haze sets in during last Tuesday's non-league soccer match between Liberty and Hillsboro, while Hilhi's Tyler Hoiem controls the ball around a Liberty defender. The Spartans won the match 1-0 and have their sights on a top four finish in the Pacific Conference.“We’re pretty experienced. We have 13 seniors and 10 of them started (our first game),” said Ellsworth, now in his 13th season. “So we have some elders, I guess, or some old guys, so that bodes well for us. Fairly good players, so that really helps.”

His goal is for the team to finish the regular season in the top eight of the power rankings, which would allow the Spartans to host two state playoff games on their grass field, and to make it to the quarterfinals. Hilhi was also eliminated in the second round in 2011.

“The team really wants to push past that and advance to the round of eight, because once you get there, you’ve got to have luck,” Ellsworth said. “It’s anybody’s chance to win it from that point.”

Hilhi graduated three-year team member Lorenzo Balcazar, as well as defender J.J. Huerta — who is now at Clark College — and goalkeepers Nick Johnson and Jose Landeros off of last season’s team. But forward Tyler Hoiem, a second team all-conference pick, is back for the Spartans.

“He’ll lead our attack up top, along with Abran Serrano-Garcia, who’s back,” Ellsworth said. “He’s a four-year varsity guy.”

On defense, Aaron Barbur-Axhelm and Abraham Salcedo return after winning league all-star honors in 2012. Ellsworth also has hopes for center midfielder Ridge Calotis, who started earning more minutes late in the season last fall. Phoenix Baltrus is back in goal after splitting time over the past two seasons with the team’s other keepers. Diego Canastuj-Lopez, who was ineligible last season, scored the game-winning goal in last week’s win over Liberty.

“I think he’s going to be a huge contributor for us this year,” Ellsworth said.

Century Jaguars

Jaguars coach Steve Corey admits that this year’s team is still a bit of a mystery to him. Through Wednesday, Century had played in a jamboree and just one game, a 3-0 victory against Reynolds, so Corey acknowledged that Thursday’s game (after press deadline) at Lakeridge would be more telling.

“It’s hard to say,” Corey said. “It really all depends where their heads are at and how well they can maintain their composure and confidence on the field. We won’t know, really, until all of a sudden we’re down a goal and if they have the ability to come back or not. Last year that was always a problem, so we’ll see what this year will bring.”

In 2012, Century went 1-5-1 in league play (tied for seventh) and 3-8-5 overall. The team did knock off West Linn in a play-in game before falling 5-0 in the first round of the state playoffs to eventual champion Jesuit.

The Jaguars bring back Quinn Marshall, who was a second team all-conference selection, between the pipes.

“He’s probably one of the best keepers in the state,” Corey said. “So he’s ... the most important player that we have in the back.”

Center back Oscar Guzman and forward Gilberto Arreola Lopez will also be key, and Corey mentioned that senior midfielder Jonatan Rodriguez Sanchaez could be a surprise this year after not turning out in 2012.

Liberty Falcons

The 2012 season was a fantastic one for the Falcons, who finished 10-5-1 overall and tied for second in the Northwest Oregon Conference before making a run to the Class 5A state quarterfinals.

There, Liberty built a 2-1 lead on Woodburn with 20 minutes to go before falling 3-2. The Bulldogs went on to claim their third consecutive state title.

This year is already shaping up nicely as well.

“So far it’s been good,” second-year coach Chris Sletten said. “This preseason is going to be tough, though. We have a lot of 6A teams that have been in the playoffs the last couple of years, and so we’re really challenging ourselves, trying to set ourselves up for a good run at the (NWOC) title.”

Sletten called this year’s squad, which boasts 10 seniors, “deep and experienced.” He estimated that he brings back seven starters, including all-league forwards Noe Gomez and Eric Avalos.

Other key returners include goalkeeper Jonathan Amaro and midfielder Cristian Ramirez. Sletten also called freshman midfielder Jason Cortez, who is pushing for a starting spot, a “pleasant surprise.”

“He’s worked very hard and been very impressive and hopefully we’ll get four good years out of him,” Sletten noted.

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