Men's Soccer Preview: Orange Empire Conference up for grabs in 2018

Men's Soccer Preview: Orange Empire Conference up for grabs in 2018

While the samplings have been small with most teams just four or five games into the season, the early reviews are in and once again, it's an Orange Empire Conference that's ripe for the picking by any of this year's teams.

With five teams sitting with one loss or less through the first quarter of the season, this year's race to the top of the OEC summit will be filled with more twists and turns than Disneyland's Space Mountain.

In alphabetical order, here is a breakdown of each team, heading into OEC play.

CYPRESS (1-3) – Taking on some tough competition to start the season, it's been a ragged 2018 so far for the Chargers. In spite of an impressive six-goal effort against Glendale, Cypress has been outscored 10-1 in its other three matches.

Freshmen Lorenzo La Violette (three goals) and Francisco Santana-Pelayo (two goals) have been the offensive catalysts for the Chargers, while in goal looks to improve on a 2.88 goals-against average heading into conference play.

FULLERTON (4-1) – An early-season surprise, the Hornets have come out strong in 2018, winning four of their first five matches, including back-to-back shutouts to Glendale (4-0) and Southwestern (3-0) to start the season.

The depth of the Hornets has been on display in 2018 with seven different players scoring goals, including leaders Jacob Aldana (three goals) and Steve Perez (two goals, two assists). Freshman Kevan Rehmani has held the opposition to just three goals with eight saves in 270 minutes of action.

GOLDEN WEST (1-1-2) – There has been little room for mistakes for the Rustlers at the start of the 2018 season with scores of 0-0 (tie vs. Cuyamaca), 1-1 (at Compton), 1-0 (at Long Beach) and 0-1 (at Cerritos). The Rustlers have taken on some of the top teams in the region and that experience should help them heading into OEC play.

Freshman Carlos Diaz Verduzco and sophomore Kevin Reyes have been the lone goal-scorers for GWC, while in goal, the duo of Misha Marson and Jose Vega have combined for 13 saves and a 0.50 GAA over four matches.

IRVINE VALLEY (2-3) – The Lasers struggled with three tough losses against top competition. But IVC have regrouped and responded with a pair of shutout wins over El Camino (4-0) and Southwestern (2-0) to carry some positive mojo into OEC play.

Sophomore Benjamin Asabi has had a solid start to 2018 with four goals, while fellow sophomore Daniel Degas has notched two goals and an assist through the first five matches of the season.

In goal, freshman Nathan King has seen all of the action for the Lasers had has allowed 11 goals with 16 saves, a pair of shutouts and a 2.44 GAA.

NORCO (3-0-1) – Fresh off of a 2-15-3 campaign in 2017, the Norco College Mustangs have raised some eyebrows around the Orange Empire Conference, notching three wins and a tie in their first four matches. Wins over Imperial Valley (2-0), Bakersfield (2-1) and Moorpark (3-1) were followed with a hard-fought 1-1 tie against East L.A. (updated stats were not available at press time).

ORANGE COAST (2-2-1) – Much like Irvine Valley, the Pirates came out slow with a pair of frustrating losses, but since then, they have righted the ship with two wins and a tie over their last three contests, including a last-minute goal in the second half of a hard-fought 2-2 tie with Rio Hondo.

Sophomore forward Nicholas Cardenas is second in the OEC with 10 points (four goals, two assists), while 2017 conference MVP Vitor Gameiro has three goals and one assist and sophomore Achref Beldi is close behind with two goals and two assists.

Freshman goalkeeper Thiago Lino Da Costa has seen every minute of play between the pipes for Coast and has allowed 10 goals with 15 saves and a 2.00 GAA.

SANTA ANA (4-0) – The only team without a loss or a tie in 2018, head coach Jose Vasquez has his Dons clicking on all cylinders. After a 5-2 win at East L.A. and a 3-2 win over College of the Desert, SAC tightened up the defense and blanked San Bernardino Valley (1-0) and L.A. Harbor (2-0).

Freshman Jesus Nunez has been the top scorer in the OEC, notching 14 points with six goals and two assists. Fellow first-year teammate Frank Aguilar has allowed only two goals with 14 saves and microscopic 0.51 GAA.

SANTIAGO CANYON (3-0-2) – Tied for the conference lead with 15 goals, the Hawks have been finding the back of the net early and often throughout the 2018 season. SCC rolled to a 6-2 win at L.A. Mission to kick the season off before earning a 3-1 win against East L.A. A 2-0 win over Victor Valley was sandwiched in-between a pair of 2-2 draws against Oxnard and Cuyamaca.

Freshmen George Castro leads the SCC offense with four goals, while Marcus Gonzalez has three goals and an assist and Nikolas Achatz is close behind with two goals.

Freshman goalkeeper Alejandro Espinoza has made the most of his opportunity with the Hawks, allowing only four goals with five saves and a 1.14 GAA in 315 minutes of action.

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