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January 28, 2009 > Newark soccer seeking perfect season

Newark soccer seeking perfect season

By Tony Cogley

The Newark Memorial boys soccer team is only four games away from going undefeated in Mission Valley Athletic League (MVAL) play for the season, the pressure is on and the team and coach know it.
"It's all in our hands," says Coach Rick Villas about the team's fate for the season although he seems more than confident about their chances about moving on to the North Coast Section (NCS) playoffs at the end of the season. Villas has more than a right to feel that way, his team has outscored conference opponents 24-5 with six shutouts.
Sophomore sensation Alfredo Navarro has been a huge part of that kind of dominance on the field, with 15 goals to the lead the team and the MVAL. He shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. Especially since seven of his goals have come in Newark's last five matches.
"Scoring wise, he's our leader," said Villas, but was quick to point out, "we have a good mix of juniors and seniors, really unselfish players that are getting the ball to him."
When asked how Navarro has been open so often to have already taken a staggering 65 shots on goal, Coach Villas said "When he (Navarro) gets the ball, he's been making the most of it."
What may be even more impressive about Navarro is this is his first year on the team. Ruled academically ineligible his freshman year, Navarro had to earn his spot on the varsity squad, which only has three other sophomore players. Between school, practice and matches, Navarro travels to the San Ramon area to play on a U.S. Soccer Development Academy team, leaving this reporter to ask, "When does this kid sleep?"
The Cougars have already secured a spot in the conference playoffs and have only one rival within striking distance for their first-place standing, but don't think for a second Coach Villas is going to put the team on autopilot anytime soon.
"We feel like we have a target on our back," Villas noted about the way teams have been playing him lately. "We're undefeated in conference so we've been getting played a little harder ... they're pumped to play us because they're out to knock us off."
It's obvious Villas would love to finish undefeated in the MVAL for the season, and was assertive that his team will be playing for that goal. But at this point, it was easy for him to look past conference play and into the NCS playoff possibility.
"There are better leagues out there right now, like the EBAL (East Bay Athletic League), but we're playing up to their standards right now, too."
Villas knows firsthand how difficult wins can be in other leagues right now, their one loss and five ties have all come from out-of-conference play, and are currently 2-1-1 against the EBAL for the season.
Newark will next take on Irvington on Wednesday, Jan. 28, before hosting the second place Washington Huskies on January 30.

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