Valley’s boys soccer team knows what it’s like to be unbeaten through an entire Northeast League season.
The Vikings also know how little it matters during the postseason.
Valley was beaten 2-1 by Silverado on the first day of last year’s Sunrise Region playoffs, and payback has been a hot topic during preseason preparation.
“We’ve been talking about that as we’ve practiced, that we should have the mentality of revenge,” coach Frank D’Amelio said. “We were one of the favorites, but our goal was to win the whole thing. We didn’t do it, so now we have to regroup and try it again.
“It’s going to take a lot of work. We’re going to fill in some holes.”
Six starters return from a team that was 9-0-5 in the Northeast and 10-2-6 overall in 2010, but the Vikings lost Juan Carlos Gomez, who had 11 goals and five assists as a sophomore. The forward/goalkeeper moved to Mexico to try out for various clubs over the summer.
That leaves much of the scoring onus on senior captain Julio Borjas, who had nine goals and seven assists last year.
“He’s not the vocal leader, but he’s the leader by example,” D’Amelio said. “His technical ability is very good. He’s a hard worker, competitive and a good role model for the kids.”
Borjas said he knows more will be expected of him this year.
“The past three years, Valley has expected a lot from the team, and we haven’t won anything yet,” he said. “My brother graduated three years ago, and even they expected a lot from the team. Valley has expected a lot of titles, and over the years, we just haven’t done it.”
The Vikings could also get help from forward Eric Flores and freshman Eric Sanchez in filling the hole left by the versatile Gomez.
Valley will also have to battle through a Northeast League that has several teams capable of making a postseason run, including 2008 and 2009 state champion Las Vegas, 2010 state finalist Desert Pines and an Eldorado team sparked by U.S. youth national team product Ruben Duran.
“(Making the playoffs) was a little tougher for us,” D’Amelio said. “It was a playoff game every time we played. It prepares you to do battle again, which is good. You’re already battled tested.”
Borjas said he hopes winning the intense regular-season race can prepare Valley to win its first state title since 1990.
“It would mean so much to me,” he said. “I could only imagine. Since my freshman year, getting all the bullying from the seniors made me decide to give it my everything to try and win that state (title). I want it.”
Recent success has buoyed the Vikings’ confidence, but the losses also motivate them to stay grounded.
“We talked the first day, that the days of Valley not making the playoffs are gone,” D’Amelio said. “The playoffs are a given; that’s how we think. It’s what we do in the playoffs that we want to focus on.
“It’s not cocky, but confident. We want to believe in ourselves, believe in what we’ve done, and go on from there. We’ve got a great foundation, and we just need to work on it.”