ericksoccer

Junior Erik Morfin-Ruiz passes the ball over the head of a Paradise Adventist defender on Sept. 9. The Cavs won 3-1. (Photo by Jennifer Scott)

Like most coaches, Matt Vargo enjoys a good statistic. Before setting his lineups, he pores over figures and facts.

Here are some numbers Vargo’s likely been wrestling with in the lead-up to the season.

Seven: the consecutive playoff appearances the boys’ varsity soccer team has made.

Forty-four: the goals scored by the 10 seniors on last year’s team.

Three: how many seniors will suit up for this year’s team.

It all adds up to a big challenge for Vargo as he attempts to guide a younger squad back to the playoffs to defend last season’s section title.

The Cavs (4-0) started off their preseason with a scrimmage against Encina. The game took on a slightly different format than a regular season match with six 20-minute quarters.

The new set-up didn’t help Country Day, as Encina rolled, 8-1.

Junior Dominic Stephen scored the Cavs’ only goal.

“The team is very young,” he said. “In the future we’ll have experienced players, but for now they are all inexperienced.”

This changing of the guard comes in the midst of  one of the most successful runs in team and school history. The Cavs ended last season on top, winning the Division VII Sac-Joaquin Section Championship in a thrilling penalty shootout.

It was the third section title for what’s become one of the most dominant boys’ soccer programs in the section, earning seven Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League (SMAL) titles and appearing in five of the last seven section title games.

But most of those teams have been comprised of a large contingent of senior starters—half of last year’s starters were seniors.

The new smaller crop of seniors includes Eric Hilton, who admits he is also having some qualms about this season’s prospects.

“There are a lot of kids on the team that have potential, but are hurt by their lack of high-school soccer experience,” Hilton said.

It doesn’t help that the Cavs have lost promising  freshman Aidan Cunningham, who was injured in a skateboarding accident.

In the face of adversity, however, the team has shown some life, embarking on a four-game winning streak after the loss to Encina.

“You have to start with the basics,” Vargo said. “We do have a lot of inexperienced players, but it’s exciting to see the players step up and take on new roles.”

Eight freshmen are suiting up for the Cavs, with Emil Erickson scoring a critical goal in a 2-1 victory over Victory Christian, Sept. 10.

The Cavs defeated Victory in the Section Championship game last year.

Junior Ethan Ham, an all-league selection last season, scored the game-winning goal.

And if the Cavs can find some success this season, it should really set the program up for the future,  junior Skovran Cunningham said.

The Cavs will battle the Lutheran Lions at home on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 4 p.m.

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