By Ray Hamill — With a large group of former H-DNL players in its ranks, the College of the Redwoods men’s soccer team should have more depth this year.
And that could lead to a breakout season for the program and head coach Kyle Van Dyke.
“Definitely overall we have better depth than we have had the last couple of seasons,” said Van Dyke, who is in his fourth year as head coach of the team. “We’re a deeper team. As long as we can stave off injuries we’ll be better.”
Roman Barnes, one of seven returning sophomores on this year’s team, gave CR the lead just five minutes in, but the Comets battled back with a pair of quick goals five minutes apart midway through the opening half and would hold on for the win.
The Corsairs created multiple opportunities, including a missed penalty kick, but were unable to convert on them.
“It was encouraging that we were getting looks, getting the opportunities and creating the opportunities,” the head coach said. “Overall we played pretty well, we’ve just got to get better at putting the ball in the back of the net.”
Many of this opportunities came courtesy of a strong midfield, which Van Dyke feels will be the strength of this year’s team.
This year’s squad also has some experience in key positions.
Among the key returners are Fortuna graduate Braiden Barsanti, who will play in midfield and on the wing and is “very important out there on the field,” according to his coach.
Also back is Barnes — a Utah native who will play up front and out on the wing and is “leading by example and plays really hard,” the coach said — as well as Brian Celio-Aburto, a central defender/midfielder from Eureka, who was with the team in 2021 before redshirting last season.
South Fork’s Ethan Kulchin is also back from the 2021 CR team and ready to make an impact on the wing.
Two other former South Fork players — forward Cody Gamble and the versatile Ryder York — also are back for their sophomore seasons with the team, as is Pacifica native Santino Baldassare, who will play midfield.
Among the newcomers expected to play key roles is Fortuna defender Adrian Olea, who graduated from high school in 2022 and trained with the team this past spring.
Eureka’s Jiagdae Her and Fortuna’s Jesus Dominguez both are also expected to make an immediate impact.
Her, who is a vocal leader from the back, will play goalie and in defense, while Dominguez, who Van Dyke describes as “a really good communicator,” will help anchor the defense.
With 15 of the 20 players on the roster locals, the Corsairs had a big turnout for their summer practices, which helped prepare them for the season.
That group includes a large group of Arcata players — midfielder/forward Kayin Kloberdanz, midfielder Kaden O’Brien, defender Seamus Clancy and defender/midfielder Miles Kraemer.
Fortuna’s Julian Carillo, Blue Lake’s Sawyer Brodkorb and Eureka’s Jesus Cervantes each also are on this year’s roster and expected to play key roles, as are Jaden Dutton from Hawaii, Ivan Ortega from San Pedro and Cayton Lassiter form Florida.
And overall, Van Dyke says he likes the team chemistry he’s seeing from his players.
“I like the way they really work together,” he said. “Obviously it’s tough starting out and learning about each other and how to play together, but it’s just a good group to be around. It’s enjoyable going to practice every day knowing it’s a good group that wants to improve.”
The Corsairs will close out a busy week with a pair of road games on Thursday (at Merced) and on Friday (at Gavilan), and will play at home again on Sept. 12 when they host Mendocino.