Parkland Soccer Preview
Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 17:08
Kicking off the Parkland athletic season, literally, are the men’s and women’s soccer teams. As with every year, hopes are high surrounding every Parkland athletic program. Soccer is no exception.
Both men’s and women’s soccer teams have an experienced coaching staff in place as well as many returning players. This sets the stage for what should be a highly competitive year as we preview the 2012-13 season.
Men’s head coach Mark Sikora and his staff did some heavy recruiting this summer. Unfortunately they must open the season without one of their top recruits from a year ago, Dhani Cerra.
Cerra, an All-Region First Team performer, left Parkland after his freshman season. Cerra led the Cobras in goals with 11 and contributed eight assists. Sikora’s team will also be without its second leading scorer Douglas Andrade. Andrade finished his sophomore season with 10 goals and five assists.
Possibly filling that void could be the quartet from Cicero, Ill. Morton high school products Jesus Morales, Elias Salgado, Alonso Torres, and Daniel Vargas made up a huge chunk of the recruiting class.
With most freshmen, an adjustment period to the college game is necessary. With luck, the players with more experience will step up and develop chemistry with the newcomers that will ease the transition.
Sikora has the privilege of guiding 11 sophomores into this season. This group is highlighted by midfielder Ben Flodstrom, the team’s next leading goal maker from last year behind Cerra and Andrade. He is expected to take over the leadership role.
After finishing 10-9-1, a one game improvement in the win column from last season, the feeling is that the Cobras are on the doorstep of transforming the men’s team into an elite program. They must, however, pick up some key wins against quality opponents.
The dates to mark on the calendar are September 8 and September 22. The Cobras face off against preseason No. 6 Schoolcraft College and their rival No.10 Lincoln College respectively. Victories here would definitely be huge for the program.
The Cobras are also hosting their annual fundraiser September 1 and 2. The Labor Day Kick for the Cure tournament is a showcase that involves numerous teams matching up, including Parkland, while raising money for cancer research. Various raffles, giveaways, and contests surround the soccer field as the community rallies for a positive cause.
Women’s head coach Josh Alford has a bit of a different dilemma than Sikora. Alford has elevated the Lady Cobras to a level most did not see coming. The challenge, however, is keeping it there.
Alford, last year’s Region 24 Coach of the Year, finished the 2011-12 season with a record of 14-2-1. His team also earned recognition nationally, obtaining the school’s first ever Top 10 ranking in the polls.
Needless to say, it was a very successful season. So, how does one replicate such success? Add into the equation the loss of two First Team All-Region performers.
Sophomore Sadie Somers has departed as has the team’s career leader in goals Jenny Musick, who is continuing her career at Austin Peay State University.
Again, how does one replicate such success? One answer may be the return of Alford’s two other First Team All-Region standouts.
Keren Sharabi and Priscila Azuaga have come back for their second year as Lady Cobras. Azuaga led the team a season ago in goals scored and was second in goals assisted on. Expectations are high for Azuaga entering this season.
In talks with Alford earlier this spring, it is clear that he is convinced that this recruiting class is very strong. A lot of ground work was put in by Alford and his staff to find the best girls for his program. It didn’t hurt to have the amount of success he had to boost his résumé as a recruiter.
The recruiting class is highlighted by forward Amanda Stoll. The highly touted athlete from Madison, IN is another possible Division I talent in the making.
All things considered, the games still have to be played. Early tough opponents appear back to back on the women’s schedule on September 23 and 26. Those mark the dates they face off against preseason No. 14 Lewis and Clark College and No. 13 Waubonsee College respectively. These two contests will go a long way in determining the outcome of the season.