Piedmont soccer looks to build on success

AFC 05/06 Team 1 players who are also PHS Varsity Soccer players. L to R: Andrew McLaughlin (senior), Gianluca Bini (junior), Harper Mand (junior), Bosco Lorin (junior), Nikolas Markopoulos (junior). Missing are Ben Elmquist (senior), Riley Stratman (senior) and Aiden Woolwine (senior). (Courtesy Karen Markopoulos)

The Piedmont High School boys soccer program will be hard-pressed to be better than it has been the past couple of years. The Highlanders have won back-to-back North Coast Section Division 4 championships.

First off, a lot of talented seniors have departed from last year’s team. Second, thanks to its success, Piedmont has been moved up to Division 3 this year, thanks to the NCS competitive equity rules.

“It’s a little bit of a transition year, rebuilding from losing quite a few important seniors from the team and moving up for Division 3,” Highlanders coach Todd Sullivan said. “I think we’re going to have a bit more athleticism than talent. But every group that comes through I think we have a healthy club environment and talent coming through.”

Senior Riley Stratman will serve as one of the captains.

“He’s your atypical captain,” Sullivan said. “Mr. Consistent, Mr. Reliable, really good at organizing things. He can kind of play anywhere. He’s going to be our utility man playing a lot of positions.”

Joining Stratman with an armband will be senior Aiden Woolwine. He has been one of the top scorers in the program.

“He’s definitely someone over the years who scored most of the goals,” Sullivan said. “He’ll be playing on the front line. He won’t play one position.”

Junior Enzo Bernales will also serve as a captain.

“He’s going to play in our most creative role,” Sullivan said. “He’s very good on the ball, and can see a pass.”

Senior Alex Saldanha will be the primary goalkeeper. In fact, Sullivan said he’s the only goalkeeper currently on the varsity roster.

“He needs to be available,” Sullivan said. “His distribution (is strong) and he’s a very good shotblocker.”

Freshman Jacob Faucher will move into the lineup and could be a key player as the season develops.

Sullivan is preaching attention to detail this year.

“Quality on the ball,” he said when asked what a key will be. “In possession (has to get better). We’re probably starting on an even keel. I think league-wise, it’s going to be difficult. I think people are catching up slightly. Trying to get through our divisional games and make it to NCS this year is a goal.”

If Piedmont makes it to NCS, Division 3 will be a tougher road.

“After meeting the D3 champ in state (playoffs), I think it was a clear gulf between the D3 champ and D4 champ,” Sullivan said. “Definitely between the top teams.”

Coming off such a historic season, the Highlanders are looking to continue to build the program up. The NCS titles were the first in school history. Last year’s team got its first win in the California Interscholastic Federation northern regional playoffs. Piedmont beat Kimball-Tracy in the first round, 2-0, before falling to NCS Division 3 champion Marin Catholic in the regional semifinals, 4-0. The Wildcats ending up winning the region.

“Obviously after winning the first (NCS title), it wasn’t expected,” Sullivan said. “To get back-to-back NCS is huge. The state run beyond that was very special as well. As a group it was an enormous achievement.

“We won’t dwell on it too long because that was a completely different group.”

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