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Renewed hope for the Hillmen

Placer Soccer Outlook
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The good news for the Placer High soccer team is the two teams that finished above them in the Pioneer Valley League last season have departed. The bad news is, several talented Hillmen have also moved on after graduation. But the Hillmen bring back a strong nucleus from a team that was a few goals short of getting back to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for just the second time in two decades. “We’re fully committed this year,” senior midfielder Jose Arellano said. “We’re here to put the work in. We know where we want to be at the end of the season and our work ethic is good.” The Hillmen are striving to bring home a PVL title, but even with co-champions Whitney and El Dorado in new leagues it won’t be easy. Newcomers Foothill and Center bring competitive squads into the PVL and Placer coach Mark Miller said each game in the new-look league is going to be a battle. “There are no easy games in this league,” Miller said. “Foothill went to the playoffs last year and we barely beat Center 3-2 at our field last season.” Seniors Dylan Day and Nick Mitchell will be relied upon for leadership on the field. Day, who is easily identified by the pink bandana he wears under his curly blonde hair, plays center midfielder. He likes what he’s seen on the practice field so far. “Our team’s older now, so we’re more mature,” Day said. “We’ve played together more and we really understand our playing styles. I’ve been trying to work on my vision, so I can distribute the ball a little better.” Nick Mitchell headed up the defense at sweeper the last two seasons. Miller plans to utilize his speed and foot skills on offense this season. “Now I’m needed up top, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” Mitchell said. “I think we’re going to be very solid. We’ve got a good group of returning seniors this year and some strong juniors and a couple of sophomores that are really skilled.” Junior Ulises Baptista showed glimpses of his talent last season and should be a major contributor on offense. Sophomores Brennan Entz and Gama Gomez have looked good in practice early this season. Seniors Ryan Holden and Victor Brambila didn’t play last season, but they should contribute, along with returning seniors Robert Trimble, Archie Warren, Matt Norcott and Michael Smothers. Senior goalkeeper Nigel Pell gives Placer an anchor in the back after starting for the past two seasons. “He’s got another year of maturity and keepers only get better with age, so he’s going to be a huge help this year,” Day said of the goalkeeper. Juniors Jordan Roper and Eddie Santamaria should also factor into the midfield mix. Last fall, injuries and illness plagued Placer all season. Arellano missed the first month of the season with an injury before coming on strong with five goals down the stretch. The Hillmen were rarely at full strength during PVL play as they finished 6-5-1. Miller has scheduled five less games this season, hoping to avoid the injury troubles this season. “The injuries and illnesses really killed us,” Miller said. “Last year we had 24 contacts and this year we only have 19.” Placer will play all its PVL home games under the lights at Le Febvre Stadium, where it went 3-1 last season. The Hillmen begin the season Aug. 27 against Casa Roble at Railhead Park. The PVL schedule begins with a tough stretch of five straight away games, beginning Sept. 16 at Center. “I think it would be a disappointment if we didn’t make playoffs,” Mitchell said. “I think we have the talent for it. It would be a great legacy to leave behind. It would be something for other teams to strive for in the future at Placer.”