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Bears pursue third district title

Bears pursue third district title
DAN SHERRARD/LVSportsPhotos.com La Vernia senior forward Brian Beltran leads the attack Jan. 9 against the Harlan Hawks. The Bears fell to the 5A-sized team, 3-0, at Bear Stadium.

The La Vernia Bear soccer team is in the process of rebuilding, grabbing some games against larger schools like Harlan, to see what their chances are for a third district title and playoff run.

“I put the game in to play a [5A-sized] team, only so that we could see what the caliber of our team was going to be,” said La Vernia Head Coach Jose Carranza about the Jan. 9 game against the Hawks, where the Bears lost 3-0.

Junior Eduardo Cruz got things going for the offense Tuesday night with a close header off the top bar, followed by several beautiful long passes up front for La Vernia’s senior forward Brian Beltran.

“He lost his partner up top, Pedro [Carranza], who graduated last year,” their coach said of Beltran. “Over the summer, he was a champ. He lost 30 pounds. He got faster ... I’m trying to get him a little help with new formations.”

A skilled Harlan team fought right back, with several attacks up the sidelines. Senior goalie Bryce Crane had several great saves, while senior Hunter Skrzycki held the back line aggressively in his new role as sweeper, after spending much of last year as a stopper.

“We’re changing people around to see where we’re going,” Carranza said. “I put [Skrzycki] in the sweeper position to see how he’s doing, but he’s doing great controlling that back line ... [Crane] has improved a lot in the box since last year.”

The Hawks eventually managed to slip in a low shot off a corner kick for their first goal, followed by another off an unlucky rebound in the Bears’ penalty area. An early attack in the second half by Cruz and Beltran was answered with Harlan’s third goal of the evening, to bring the score to 3-0.

“Our back line is pretty remarkable,” Carranza said. “We got a lot of offside calls. They caught us asleep a few times, but mostly they’ve been champs.”

It’s a younger team this year, he explained. The Bears have seven incoming freshmen after losing eight starters last year to graduation, including offensive heavyweights Pedro Carranza, Ricky Guzman, and Rudy Cruz.

“I want to break them down to see where we’re at, so we can rebuild and get ready for the season,” Coach Carranza said.

The Bears enter district play against their lone two rivals, Pleasanton and Somerset, in February, hoping to top the table for their third straight year.

“My understanding is that we’re pretty much going to be on par,” Carranza said of the competition. “Our small goal is to win district and move into the second round [of playoffs].”

La Vernia (6-3) placed third in the Jan. 11-13 Pleasanton Tournament, and heads to Canyon Lake Jan. 18 for another tournament.

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