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Men's team looks for a leader

Coach Madha searches for a team leader. Is he in this group?

Men’s soccer coach E.B. Madha looks back on last year’s season and wonders if it was a dream.

In only their second year back to competition after a five-year athletics hiatus, the Eagles won the conference title, were ranked in the top 10 nationally most of the season, saw their key player (Ivan Becerra) named a community college All American and Conference Player of the Year, and celebrated when nine Eagles landed on the All Conference first or second teams.

How do you top that?

Madha is not trying to. Just before the start of the 2004 season, Madha and assistant coaches Norman Mejia and Jose Mejia have set a more immediate goal: find a leader.

"Last year, we had so many returning players, it was easy to find leaders and that’s why the team jelled so quickly," said Madha. "With all the new faces, that leader hasn’t emerged yet this year."

Seven players are returning from last year’s squad. The balance, about 15, are new. Madha says there is talent on the team, led by last year’s starters Christian Piedra and Antonio Llerenas, as well as some impressive new players from local high school teams.

Head Coach E.B. Madha (center) with assistant coaches Norman Mejia (left) and Jose Mejia

"We’re going to need a couple of games under our belt before we see a team that can play well together," said Madha. He believes a leader will emerge in those early games to show the others the way. Even though he doesn’t know who that player will be, Madha can describe him to a tee.

"The leader on this team will be somebody who can pick us up when we need picking up; who can rally us; who, by example, shows he’s giving 110 percent on the field and asks the same from everybody else."

The Eagles begin pre-conference play on August 27 with a match against San Diego Community College. Conference play begins on September 10 with a home game against Oxnard. Home games will be played at Birmingham High School, 17000 Haynes St., Lake Balboa.

See the Men’s Soccer Schedule

Photos: Lydia Chung