JUCO Soccer: Gavilan charges into second year under Espinosa

The Gavilan soccer team practices Tuesday, Aug. 11 at the college.

GILROY—When Ricardo Espinosa took over Gavilan’s soccer team last season, he said the odds were already against him. With the recruiting season over prior to his arrival, he had little time to piece together a team and the result was a 2-15-3 record.
Espinosa and the Rams are determined to make this year different and they’ve already made huge strides. The Gavilan coach and his team—comprised of mainly freshmen last year—now have a year of experience under them. And Espinosa has had a full recruiting season, which expanded his squad from 13 to 21 players.
“Last year we had to do with what we had. Now, the quality is much better and just overall the attitude is much better,” he said. “It’s two-fold. It’s better than last year, but we’re still in the toughest conference in the state.”
The Rams will take on perennial powerhouse opponents the likes of Evergreen, West Valley and De Anza, which made it the Final Four in the California Community College Athletic Association state tournament. But they’ll be doing it with a team stacked with returning sophomores, such as Hibsen Tamayo-Davila, who was the Conference Forward of the Year in 2014 and scored 13 goals for Gavilan.
“A lot of us were freshman last year, so now we know what to expect,” Tamayo-Davila said. “We’re pretty strong now—I would say we’re much stronger. We have way more talent that we didn’t have last year either.”
Also returning is Je-
sus Vasquez and Javier Alejo, who will complement second-year centerback Ray Gonzalez on defense. Professional soccer player Steve Purdy, who has played with Chivas USA and the El Salvador national team, has taken the defensive coaching reigns and Espinoza says Purdy has already made a drastic impact.
Gavilan held an inter-
squad scrimmage on Monday and pitted its defense against the offense. At one point there were only six defenders guarding nine offensive players and even with the lopsided squads, the defense didn’t allow a goal.
“It’s coming together,” Espinosa said with a smile. “That’s what I’m excited about is the defense.”
The Rams were a second half team last year, often finding themselves in deficits at halftime too large to overcome. With a stronger defense, a year of experience and an attitude adjustment, Gonzalez said history won’t repeat itself this season.
“We just got angry at each other, ended up beating up on each other, so we’re just trying to stay together this season,” the centerback said. “We have to stay positive and believe in what we got. We see the other teams and tended to get intimidated and just let us step on us. We gotta go in there thinking we can do it and just stay positive.”
It’s not just the returners that have the Rams excited, however. Gilroy High standout David Solarzano joins the squad on defense and Angel Velasquez, a transfer from Evergreen, will be the goalie.
Even with all the positive changes Gavilan underwent in the offseason, Espinosa is careful not too put too much pressure on his team. While more wins would be nice, he said he focused more on the team’s development.
“The expectation in such a tough conference is not so much about results, but it’s more about cohesiveness that we have as a team,” Espinosa said.
The Rams will host an alumni scrimmage game at 4 p.m. Aug. 28 as final test before they open the season at 4 p.m. Aug. 31 at against the Butte College Roadrunners in Oroville.

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