The Pioneers’ potential is undeniable.
Simi Valley High’s boys’ soccer team boasts a horde of talented underclassmen, including sophomore midfielder Dylan Studer and freshman forward Tyler Baird. One day, they’ll be in the running for Coastal Canyon League MVP.
Unfortunately for the Pioneers, all this tantalizing potential hasn’t quite materialized on the pitch so far.
“We have some growing to do,” first-year head coach Ryan Woods said. “We’re in games, but we’re not as good as we want to be going forward.”
Simi Valley (2-5-4 overall), the defending Coastal Canyon League champions, opened league action with a 2-0 loss to Oak Park on Jan. 10.
Woods, a former Westlake High and Wheaton College (Mass.) soccer standout who has served as an assistant coach at Simi Valley the past six years, said mental mistakes have hurt the team.
The Pioneers are also learning to survive without graduated twin stars Caleb and Lucas Malabo, who combined to net 26 of the team’s 37 goals last winter.
“We’re playing with a couple of different formations,” said senior captain Ryan Fraye, a defensive center back. “We’re still working on some stuff right now.”
It’s taken a team effort to put goals on the board.
“We’re not really as reliant on a single guy,” the coach said.
Nine different players have found the back of the net this winter.
Nico Villamizar, a junior striker who handles kicking duties for the football team in the fall, leads the squad with four goals. He’s also assisted on two goals.
Studer and junior Alec Silva, who was called up from the junior varsity team earlier this season, each have three goals.
Studer, who enjoyed a breakout freshman campaign last year, said he’s better prepared to go the distance in games after a busy offseason.
“I feel stronger and more fit,” Studer said. “It’s better for running a whole 80-minute game.”
Baird, a freshman with blinding speed, has two goals, including a second-half equalizer against Westlake on Jan. 5.
“We think the world of his game and where he’s going to be in two or three years,” the coach said. “He’s a special guy.”
Tony Reyes, a sophomore forward with limitless upside, leads the team with four assists.
“He’s a difference-maker,” Woods said of Reyes. “He takes people on. It’s hard for sophomores and freshmen to be dynamic because they don’t want to make mistakes and get pulled off the field. He’s of a different ilk. He makes good things happen.”
Cody Breskin, a physical junior midfielder, plays like a long lost Bash Brother who chose soccer cleats over hockey skates.
Woods called Jared Fuller, a junior midfielder who transferred from Royal, the team’s top attacking player. Fuller, who has only been eligible for two games, is still getting acquainted with the Pioneers’ style.
Mason Neri, a first-year varsity junior, roams the midfield.
Fraye patrols the Pioneer back line with fellow senior Divan Zuniga, junior Cole Wakim, a converted forward, and Nathan Villa, a second-year varsity sophomore.
Davis Sharts, last year’s Coastal Canyon goalkeeper of the year, is back protecting the woodwork.
Woods didn’t hesitate to emphasize the importance of having the junior back in the lineup.
“He has to keep us in games because we’re young and we make mistakes,” the coach said of Sharts.
The Pioneers will have to minimize mistakes during league action since every team wants to knock off the reigning champs.
“We’re going to be watching out for Camarillo and Moorpark,” Sharts said. “Moorpark’s compact defensively, and Camarillo has some talent.”
With only three seniors, Angel Contreras, Zuniga and Fraye, Simi Valley appears to have the talent to contend for league hardware for years to come.
Despite the misstep in the league opener, Woods said, he believes his team can still contend for another league crown.
“I think we’re good enough,” he said. “I think we have the guys that can help us do that.”