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WAC soccer preview
spt_hg_Great Bend's Carlos Soto.jpg
Great Bend's Carlos Soto sees an opportunity in the attacking third to pass the soccer ball against Maize. - photo by Hugo Gonzalez



DODGE CITY -- Make no mistake about it; the 2020 Dodge City Red Demons were undoubtedly one of the best teams on the pitch in Western Athletic Conference history.

They swept through the double round-robin schedule with an unblemished 8-0 record, but even more impressive was their 12-0 record outside of the tough WAC as Coach Saul Hernandez’ squad captured the Class 6A state boys soccer title for the second time in five seasons.

Hernandez, no doubt, is among the premier high school soccer coaches in the Sunflower State, posting a daunting 110-13 record in six previous seasons, an .894 winning percentage.

The 2021 edition of the Red Demons will be without its graduated star striker, Alan Lopez, who was a two-time WAC Player of the Year as well as being an all-state selection.

But Hernandez does welcome back 13 players who had varying degrees of varsity experience, and in soccer returns one of the premier goal keepers in Kansas in senior Daniel Ruiz, who registered 15 shutouts his junior campaign while yielding only eight goals during the unbeaten championship run.

Hays High, which finished 4-13 under Silas Hibbs, returns a solid core of varsity experience and should challenge for a run in the 5A playoffs later in the fall. Hibbs has one first team and one second team all-WAC performer returning to anchor his squad. Garden City has second-year coach Jose Vital-Caro excited with a wealth of returners from a team that went 6-8-1 last year (3-5 in the WAC), going 3-3-1 outside the conference.

Liberal, always among the top teams in the WAC and competitive in postseason play was second last year at 5-3 and finished 9-4 overall. The Redskins, though, lost five players who were either first or second team all-WAC selections.
In the preseason coach’s poll, the Red Demons were the unanimous pick to regain the WAC title, with Garden City second, Liberal third, Great Bend fourth and Hays High fifth.

Coach: Saul Hernandez, 7th season (110-13, .894)

2020 in Review: Undefeated WAC Champions at 8-0; 20-0 Class 6A State Champions. Alan Lopez, 2019 and 2020 WAC Player of the Year graduated. Demons beat Olathe East, 3-0, in state title game.

Top Returners (Only 3 returning starters): Jose Holguin, Sr. forward (13 goals, 10 assists); Luis Brown, Sr., Midfielder (3 assists); Irwin Macias, Sr. midfielder (3 goals, 3 assists); Daniel Ruiz, Sr., Goalkeeper; Aron Martinez, So., midfielder; Bryan Tonche, Sr., midfielder.

Coach’s Comments: “This team has worked hard and smart in the offseason and we participated in a couple of tournaments where we were able to see our strengths and weaknesses. It was a productive summer, but we were unable to see the full squad together at the same time so we are excited as a coaching staff to see that come together this season. Some of our strengths are having 13 players with experience at the state level. We have a great core group that has bought in to summer activities and that have been doing the right things in the classroom as well. Our goalkeeper Daniel Ruiz is a strong goalkeeper that is good with his feet, communication, and shot stopping. Our midfield will be strong with 3 guys that got a lot of minutes and know each other well. Up front we have many guys that know how to put the ball in the back of the net as we had many goal scorers in the 2 tournaments we participated in.”

Coach: Jose Vital-Caro, 2nd season (6-8-1)

2020 in Review: 3-5 in WAC, 6-8-1 overall.

The Buffaloes were in most of their games during the 2020 season, dropping multiple matches by one or two goals. With another year under his belt as head coach, Vital-Caro is looking for the Buffs to step up another level with leadership and a year of learning the new system.

Top Returners: Bryant Tamayo, Sr., Central Midfielder; Erick Tamayo, Jr., Defender; Roger Benitez, Sr., Striker/Defender; Alex Macias, Jr., Striker/Defender; Emiliano Garcia, Jr., Midfielder/Winger; David Hernandez, Jr., Left winter/Midfielder; Daniel Zamarip, Sr., Goalkeeper; Chris Barragan, Jr., Striker/Winger; Jr. Mata, Sr., Central Midfielder.
Top newcomers: Jael Velasquez, Fr., Central/Midfielder; Rylan Tovar, Fr., Goalkeeper; Mario Ruiz, Fr., Striker; Angel Enriquez, Fr., Striker.

Coach’s Comments: “Last season the boys could have had a much better season finishing with 3 wins and 5 losses, things went more negative than positive! However that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering the amount of progress we needed to make and all the hard work we had in mind to instill, this was our motivator!! This year we are looking forward to a much more advanced and successful year both in sports and academics. Every athlete and coach has been working their tail off this summer to improve the organization from every standpoint like fundraisers, camps, friendly games, and just super hard work throughout our training.”

Coach: Jesus Loera, 6th season

2020 in Review: Tied for 3rd at 3-5 with Garden City in WAC; 7-9 overall; Won 5A regional title and then lost in state quarterfinals.

Returning Starters (8): Juan Sanchez, Sr., Midfielder; Jonathan Pasos, Sr., Forward; Salvador Garcia, Sr., Defender; Carlos Soto, Sr., Midfielder; Mario Arias, Sr., Forward; Edwin Chavez, Jr., Goalkeeper; Alex Galindo, So., Forward; Gustavo Alvarado, So., Forward. Sanchez was a first team all-WAC selection while Galindo, Pasos and Soto earned second-team all-WAC honors.

Top Newcomer: Fernando Alonzo, Fr., Midfielder.

Coach’s Comments: “One of what I believe our biggest strengths will be this season is the number of returning players we have within our program this year. Along with a good number of boys returning, we also feel like our team chemistry is stronger than it may have been in recent years. The team is working for each other, and is all excited to achieve team goals together. One areas of concern for us this year may be depth. At the moment we have a strong core group of young men who we feel can perform at the varsity level. Within a reasonable of time we are going to really focus on developing some of the younger boys on the roster so that we can incorporate them in the varsity rotation. The more we have, the better off we’ll be late in the season.”

Head Coach: Silas Hibbs, 5th season

2020 in Review: 1-7 in WAC; 4-13 overall

Top Returners: Kyzer Fox, Midfielder; Brantlee Staab, Forward; Diego Muller, Central Attacking Midfielder; Trayton Roa, Midfielder; Edwin Muller, Forward; Karsten Koenke, Defender; Jake Taliferro, Defender; Hector Amaya, Defender. Staab and Diego Muller were all-WAC performers in 2020.
Coach’s Comments: “We return 15 varsity players from last year, all of which have obtained substantial varsity-level experience as underclassmen.”

Coach: Carlos Ruiz, 1st season boys coach; Girls head coach since 2016

2020 in Review: 5-3 WAC, 2nd place to Dodge City; 9-4 overall.

Top Returners: Angel Munoz, Sr., Forward; Emmanuel Ortuno, Jr., Center Back; Felix Nam Nguyen, Sr., Center Midfielder; Suain Moncayo, Fr., Midfielder.

Roster losses: The Redskins lost 5 players who were either first or second team all-WAC performers.

Coach’s Comments: “I believe our team strengths will be our ability to be versatile on the field. We have a younger squad and with a new coaching staff, the player buy-in to new tactics and new team culture is easier to achieve. We also have good speed and strength all around as well as decent height, which is a first for this program.”