Righetti High ran away with the PAC 7 league boys soccer title last year.
The Warriors went 26-2-1 overall, including a 12-0 mark against league competition. As PAC 7 play has begun this week, there might not be such clear-cut dominance this time around.
Righetti started the year 4-1-1 overall, posting the best nonleague winning percentage of the group, but Arroyo Grande (10-5), Paso Robles (7-3-2), San Luis Obispo (7-4), Pioneer Valley (6-3-1) and Atascadero (6-4-1) all had winning records in nonconference play, leaving Nipomo as the league’s only team on the other end of the spectrum.
“There’s much more parity,” Eagles coach Brad Bowdey said. “Anybody can beat anybody. Righetti has been dominant the last couple of years, and they’ll be strong, but other teams have gotten better this year. We all had pretty good preseasons.”
Arroyo Grande, which advanced to the championship game of the Mustang Invitational tournament in Trabuco last week (losing only to Edison of Fresno, 2-0), has had 10 different players score thus far.
“We have strengths all over the field,” Bowdey said. “It’s been a matter of those kids coming together and playing in a system they weren’t too familiar with in the beginning.”
Morgan Wack leads the Eagles with eight goals, while Eliseo Torres has added five. Christian Garcia has a team-best five assists, while goalkeeper Bryan Rivas, a reigning all-league first-team selection, is averaging 5.5 saves per game.
Arroyo Grande opened its PAC 7 schedule Monday with a 3-2 win over Paso Robles, in which the Eagles rallied from a 2-0 first-half deficit. The comeback was “huge” for Arroyo Grande’s confidence, Bowdey said, especially given the Bearcats’ recent résumé.
At the 12-team Buena Tournament in Ventura last week, Paso Robles took second, collecting wins over Pacifica of Oxnard (on penalty kicks after a 2-2 deadlock), Buena (2-0) and Oxnard (on penalty kicks after a scoreless regulation tie, thanks largely to 12 saves by goalkeeper Daniel Fuerte). The Bearcats fell only to Santa Barbara in the championship match, 4-0.
Righetti, which last year made it to the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division V playoffs, opened this campaign ranked No. 3 in the division.
Warriors coach John Pranjic is relying on a deeper bench after graduating seven all-league picks, including MVP Servando Perez, now playing at Cal State Los Angeles.
Arroyo Grande’s one-goal margin of victory over Paso Robles on Monday was indicative of the league’s more bunched-up outlook this season, Pranjic said.
“It’s going to be a lot more balanced,” Pranjic said. “(Arroyo Grande and Paso Robles) were even. It was back-and-forth the whole game. I expect it to be that way throughout the entire year for all seven of us.”
Jacob Bedell has carried Paso Robles with eight goals and three assists.
Atascadero, meanwhile, arguably has the league’s best singular talent in senior midfielder Alex Aguiar, who has committed to UC Davis.
Conversely, San Luis Obispo has had perhaps even more of a diversified attack than Arroyo Grande, as 11 different players have pooled to tally the Tigers’ 20 scores. Tyler Davis has a team-best four goals for San Luis Obispo, which has also gotten strong contributions from Alex Frost and Jeremy Cleere, among others.
“I’m really excited about the league this year,” said San Luis Obispo coach Johnny Costa, who feels the Tigers’ added experience will provide a boost in close games. “We’re going in a lot more confident.
“They’re going to be close games.You’re either going to win by a point or lose by a point. I think the title’s up for grabs. It may go down to the last day.”