Photo Taken By Alan Lewis
The Hawks have long awaited the return of a normal season, as they played without fans and did not compete for a championship in the prior two seasons due to the pandemic. Now able to practice in full squads on the pitch and able to have fans present, the men’s soccer team has started their season with a strong record, posting three wins in their first four games.
After beginning their season with an emphatic 12-0 road win over Chabot College, the Las Positas men’s soccer team went into their Tuesday, Aug. 31 match against the Modesto Pirates with enough confidence that not even 15 mph winds could drag down. The game against Modesto marked the first of a five game homestand for LPC.
The game saw a lot of back and forth early on as both teams began to battle each other, as well as the wind. Around 30 minutes in, LPC freshman midfielder Christian Neves, had a nice break out pass to sophomore forward Saul Gutierrez, who passed it to freshman midfielder Owen Svantner in the far right, taking the shot and allowing Gutierrez to run up the middle and score on the rebound, 1-0 Hawks.
Not long after intermission ended, Svantner missed on a great opportunity set up by a nice cross crease pass from fellow midfielder Neves. This was the first of many more opportunities in the second half for LPC as switching sides allowed for better playmaking due to not having to run against the wind anymore.
“The first half it was a little difficult to get the ball going. The ball kinda just sat up in the air. A lot of the balls that were long came up short. But in the second half, it definitely worked to our favor. They traveled a lot further,” said Hawks midfielder Tyler Martinez.
Gutierrez scored his second goal of the game 55 minutes in, this time unassisted. Eighteen minutes after that, the captain, Adolfo Trujillo, scored to make it a 3-0 game. Some nice passing occurred between midfielder Simon Fuentes and the captain, as Trujillo slowed down the play near the goal line and got a pass off to Gutierrez to complete the hat trick and give LPC a decisive 4-0 lead at the 80 minute mark. The score remained the same in the final minutes as the Hawks exited the field on a strong two-game win streak to begin an important season, one in which they anticipate competing for the title.
“I feel like we have better players this season and they all put the work in. I think two wins in a row shows that we work hard and want to win as many games as possible…We’re really excited and working every day to get (to the championship),” said Trujillo.
That same sentiment of having eyes only on the championship is shared by Hawks goalkeeper Garrett Aslup. “This season definitely feels like there is more to play for because we didn’t really get to play for anything last season,” Aslup said. “It was all just games with no meaning. This season feels like there’s more of a competitive edge than last season because we’re actually playing for a championship.”
Aslup posted his first shutout of the season as the Hawks began 2-0, scoring 16 goals for and allowing zero goals against. Despite the Hawks making it look easy during their first two games, they found their match when playing against Feather River College on Thursday, Sept. 2.
According to the LPC Athletics website, in a game that Coach Andy Cumbo described as, “an exciting game for the fans.”
The first half of the game saw the Feather River Golden Eagles score twice while LPC was only able to snag one goal. Saul Guitierrez, an early season scoring threat, led the Hawks attempt at a comeback by scoring two goals. In the second half, both teams added three more goals to their tally. Other Hawks scorers included Dominic Guisto and Simon Fuentes, who each scored one goal.
Despite the team’s best efforts, the Hawks lost 5-4 to Feather River. “The team showed a lot of heart, grit and unity in the game and despite the end result, a lot of positive things came out of the experience,” Cumbo told LPC Athletics.
After their first loss of the season Cumbo told his team he, “Just wanted us to keep our heads up and focus on our own game plan, which was low pressure, stay in our half, taking away their pressure and looking for the counter attack,” according to Gutierrez. They managed to do exactly that as they dominated the Contra Costa Comets a majority of the game on Wednesday, Sept. 8.
Gutierrez scored three goals in the first 40 minutes, for his second hat-trick in just four games. The forward almost had a fourth goal in the second half of the game, but the referee said otherwise.
“It was called back, I really don’t think it was offsides, but it’s not something we can control, so I won’t focus on it. We like to focus on something we can control. At the end of the day, our own decisions and actions out on the field are what lead to the outcome of the game,” Gutierrez said.
In the first half of the game, Contra Costa was held off the sheet entirely as they were unable to break through LPC’s defense. One of LPC’s defensively dialed forwards was Griffin Lafleur.
“Just staying together, compact. Force them to do something special to break us down. Honestly, the best offense is defense. You win the ball in dangerous positions. We’ve seen that I think three or four times. That created scoring opportunities or goals off of hard work, coming back from our offensive players generated offense,” said Lafleur. The Hawks had applied so much pressure throughout the game they not only scored five times, but hit one post and had two goals called back, the other belonging to sophomore forward Samuel Kanghere.
“I didn’t want to touch the ball with my hand, but the ball was coming fast to me, and of course I wanted to score. I wanted to use my head, but at the same time, my hand was right there, so it was a handball,” said Kanghere.
During the game, heard amidst the shouting between players, were occasional shouts from the players directed at the referees about certain tripping calls or lack thereof, among other things. Many fans in attendance were voicing their displeasure for the same reasons. Yet the inconsistencies in calls did not get in the way of LPC getting the results they wanted.
“Honestly everybody makes mistakes — it’s human — but that shouldn’t matter. No ref dictates the outcome of the game. We do,” said Lafleur.
The Hawks will look to continue being tight defensively and score in bunches, as they play at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 10 at home against Merritt College.
Taylour Martinez Sparkman is a Writer for The Express. Follow him @T_Sparkman_330