There’s a special kind of hype a team has to live up to after it wins a championship. And the Valencia High boys soccer team, defending CIF Southern California Regional champion, was no exception.
The Vikings proved worthy of that hype in their first game of the season, defeating Highland High of Palmdale, 6-1, Wednesday night at Valencia.
“It’s hard not to be pleased with six goals,” said coach Tony Scalercio.
Valencia shook off a little bit of rust in the first few minutes of the game, settling for any shot they could find against a stingy Highland defense.
But after 10 minutes of playing time, the Vikings found themselves up 2-0 thanks to goals from Cesar Dominguez and Josh Ferguson.
“We started knocking the ball for the sake of knocking it, which I didn’t like,” Scalercio said. “But then once we put them under pressure and ended up running at them, we did a good job attacking.”
The Bulldogs’ only goal of the game came in the first half, off a swift shot from the right side of the box that managed to cut through traffic and into the net.
“I think after we scored we slowed down, which affected us, giving them the chance to score,” Dominguez said. “They were trying their best to get back in the game, but defense wins games and that’s how I think we’re going to play this whole season. Defend first and attack second.”
The Vikings won defense battles when necessary but had to be encouraged to push the ball forward.
They found a groove, though, and four different Vikings scored. Dominguez and Ferguson ended the night with two goals apiece, while Ian Young and Tyler Traber each added one for themselves.
“It’s not a one-person team,” Traber said. “We all pitched in. We all worked hard to get the work done. There was no one player we had to rely on.”
The large lead allowed Valencia to sub in some players, giving underclassmen — which included two freshmen — some experience as well as the chance to learn the team’s defense-first system.
“We still have some of those players from last season and those that are new, we’re trying to get them up to speed,” Dominguez said. “We’re helping them. Further down in the future, they’re going to be a great part of our team.”
Scalercio echoed that sentiment and saw some indicators that his team is capable of another postseason run. But he knows success won’t come easily.
“We leave nothing to chance,” Scalercio said. “The way we play offensively and defensively all has a purpose. We played good offense today, but we also pressed in the right parts of the field defensively to win the ball back. Considering this is the first game of the season, we have a lot of work to do.”