With three full-time and four part-time starters back, Lodi High's varsity boys' soccer team will make a run at capturing a third straight San Joaquin Athletic Association championship.
"That's the goal," Flames co-coach Don Rostomily said. "We'll give it our best shot. Although, it will be a little more of a challenge than the last couple of years."
That's because, despite some returning experience, Lodi is still somewhat of a young team with several spots still undetermined, Rostomily said.
The past several years, Lodi has gone into the season with its defense set, he said.
"Our defense is really unsettled this year, except the goalkeeper."
It's so unsettled Rostomily is considering two part-time starters at halfback last season, Ryan Loebs and third-year varsity kicker Omar Flores, at the fullback position this fall.
The one constant back there on defense is returning starting goalie Brian Weist.
The Flames' strength this season should be midfield, "obviously with Patrick there," Rostomily said, referring to national-caliber player Patrick Ianni, who is only a sophomore and a returning starter.
Nick Gravish, the other returning starter, also returns as a halfback, and he may also see action as the team's stopper. Part-time starter from a year ago Jose Mendoza also returns to the midfield.
The other returning part-time starter is Wes Stafford, a sophomore halfback/forward.
Other players returning with some varsity experience include forward/midfielder Diego Maldonado and sophomore fullback Dustin Lewis.
Rounding out the squad are senior forward David Rodriguez, German exchange student and forward/fullback Vit Reidell, sophomore midfielder Andres Alegre, sophomore forwards Patrick Backman and Alejandro Renteria, junior forward John Felde, junior sweeper Juan Juarez, freshman forward Pete Mullenbach, junior midfielder Trevor Phillips, junior forward/goalie Luis Prado, and junior goalie Nick Santoyo.
"We're extremely young at forward," Rostomily said. "The question will be where will our scoring come from?"
The Flames have skilled players all over the field, he said.
"It's just a matter of putting them in the right places."
Looking ahead to league play, Lincoln High should be tough, especially at the forward positions, Rostomily said.
St. Mary's will challenge, although the Rams lost a couple of key players, he said.
"Tokay always plays us tough," Rostomily said. Franklin had a young team last year but was also strong, and should be a contender if everyone returns.
Coaching along with Rostomily again this year is Matt Vargo. They are assisted by Tim Stutz.
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