KINGSBURG - In his second year as head coach, Steven Vargas has seen improvement from the Kingsburg boys soccer team, who were only able to win five games last year.
“Being my second year, I have a group that pretty much is recognizing and understanding what we want as our philosophy,” Vargas said.
The Vikings started the 2018-19 season with a 2-0 loss to Clovis West on Nov. 27, but Vargas said his team played “tough” against the Golden Eagles throughout the game.
In the 2017-18 campaign, Kingsburg went 5-16 overall and 2-8 in Central Sequoia League play with its only league wins coming against Immanuel.
One player that the Vikings won’t have this season is the 2017-18 CSL defensive player of the year Henry Wildes, who is currently playing at the NCAA Division III level at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. Wildes won defensive player of the year after notching 100 saves last season.
Vargas said Wildes will be a player that will be hard to replace, not only because of his play, but his leadership will leave a void on the team.
“He’s on to college, which is great for him and great for our program,” Vargas said. “With him we miss a little bit of the grind. He was there early, He was the one that set the tone for that team last year that the kids wanted to follow. Now I’m looking for that person.”
Vargas said freshman Jordan Rios could potentially step into that leadership role. Vargas considers Rios as the best freshman in the CSL and he could end up as an all-league player at end of the year.
“When it comes to the game, he’s extremely focused,” Vargas said about Rios. “He’s just a great individual athlete and has very high knowledge of the game, but he wants to keep learning. I feel like he’s going to be a strong foundation for us for the next years to come.”
Other than Rios, William Soria, a senior transfer from Fresno Adventist Academy is a notable newcomer that could make impact this season.
Vargas said Rios and Soria are players could attack the goal, which was something they lacked last year.
“Our results were there as far as being in games, but as far as getting those goals to win games, it just wasn’t there,” Vargas said. “I see that being the difference in this team this year. We have the people up top that have the experience at high levels to get us goals.”
Notable returners include Carlos Antonio, Emmanuel Ventura, and Francisco Magana. Vargas said Antonio, a midfielder, is one player he expects to improve and grow as a player in his junior season. Ventura and Magana are sophomore defenders that Vargas considers to be “stellar” backline players.
“Those two guys got a lot of time last year at the backline for us as freshmen,” Vargas said about Ventura and Magana. “This year, they showed to be stellar against Clovis West. They were able to handle some of the better attackers and they were able to read it and knock out the play.”
Kingsburg started the season at 1-3 after competing at a tournament at Corcoran High School on Dec. 1. The Vikings also played at Liberty-Madera Ranchos on Dec. 4 (after press time).
Up next for Kingsburg is a tournament at Fowler High School on Dec. 6-8. After, the Vikings will host its first game of the season against Reedley High on Dec. 13. Kingsburg will start CSL play when the Vikings host Hanford West on Dec. 17.