Submitted by Denair Unified School District
First-year Denair High School soccer coach Greg Gaudio quietly hopes his Southern League opponents take his young team lightly. And though the Coyotes have struggled the past few seasons, they appear primed to make some noise this fall.
They’re off to a 3-0 start behind the powerful offensive duo of seniors Francisco Licea and Isaac Starks.
The Coyotes opened with a dominating 8-3 victory at Hughson behind Licea’s four goals and three more from Starks. The defense limited the Huskies to five shots.
Then, the Coyotes took care of a strong Rio Vista team 3-1 at home, with Licea scoring twice and Starks adding the third goal. Freshman goalie Uriel Gonzalez made eight saves.
Starks nailed four goals and Licea had three assists in a 6-2 home victory over Big Valley Christian. Freshman Seth Martinez and sophomore Oscar Garcia also scored.
It all adds up to an impressive start for a Denair team that won just two out of 14 Southern League games last season. Part of the credit goes to Gaudio, a longtime youth and travel soccer coach in the region who played collegiately at CSU Stanislaus. He admittedly didn’t know much about his team as practice began last month, but says the early results are encouraging.
“I’ve changed the positions of a lot of players to get them in a position to where they can naturally excel,” Gaudio explained. “You can tell it’s really helping the team. It’s allowing them to be a team. Everybody is playing together. It seems to be working.”
He said defensive halfbacks Hector Jimenez, a junior, and Edwin Flores, a senior, “have done an amazing job.”
“I eliminated a defensive position to put them both on the field in a controlling position. We moved Edwin from offense; this is a more natural spot for him. Both of them are really shining,” Gaudio said.
Flores and Starks are the team’s co-captains.
Saturday, Denair will have a final opportunity to measure its progress before the league season starts next week. The Coyotes are one of eight teams in the Ripon Christian Tournament. They open with Ripon and also have league rivals Gustine and Orestimba on their side of the bracket.
Gaudio senses from other coaches that many are looking past Denair. He admits he’s not above using that perceived lack of respect as a motivational tool for his 15 players.
“They don’t like being taken for granted and this year they don’t have to be,” he said.
Still, he figures if Denair plays well this weekend and in its two home games next week against defending champion Delhi and always tough Mariposa, the rest of the league quickly will take notice.
“I don’t focus so much on the past, but I do know Delhi is going to be a good team,” he said. “Delhi and Mariposa are two very good teams in our league. We’re kind of under the radar.”
2015 Denair Coyotes Soccer Schedule
Date Opponent Place Time
Monday, Aug. 31 Hughson Away W, 8-3
Tuesday, Sept. 1 Rio Vista Home W, 3-1
Thursday, Sept. 3 Big Valley Christian Home W, 6-2
Saturday, Sept. 12 Ripon Chr. Tournament Away All day
Tuesday, Sept. 15* Delhi Home 4 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 17* Mariposa Home 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 22* Orestimba Away 4 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 24* Gustine Home 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 29* LeGrand Away 4 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 1* Ripon Christian Home 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 6* Waterford Away 4 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 8* Delhi Away 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 13* Mariposa Away 4 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 15* Orestimba Home 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 20* Gustine Away 4 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 22* LeGrand Home 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 27* Ripon Christian Away 4 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 29* Waterford Home 4 p.m.
*Denotes Southern League match