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Villa Park Spartans May Be Second Place, Not Necessarily Second Best

September 26, 2000|MELANIE NEFF

The South Coast tournament, the first major contest of the year, is over, leaving in its wake some surprises, some disappointments and many questions about who the best team in the county really is.

San Clemente defeated Villa Park on a buzzer-beater in the championship game, moving the Tritons (6-1) into the top spot in the county coaches' poll, yet many feel that the second-ranked Spartans may still be the team to beat this season.

Villa Park has only two losses this season, both to San Clemente and both at the buzzer. It's the Spartans' victories, however, that have county coaches in awe.

Along with defeating eighth-ranked Santa Margarita in their season opener, the Spartans were on a roll in the South Coast tournament, knocking off previously top-ranked Newport Harbor, 8-5, in the semifinals and stunning previously undefeated Long Beach Wilson, the top-ranked team in Southern Section Division I, 8-5, in the quarterfinals.

"Villa Park kind of surprised us, beating Newport and Wilson," Foothill Coach Jim Brumm said. "They do a really good job defensively and they are a very physical and fast team."

Said Newport Harbor Coach Brian Kreutzkamp: "Last week it was Wilson on top, now, in my opinion, Villa Park is kind of the team to beat. . . . they really look tough."

Why are the Spartans getting the nod from some over San Clemente, whose only loss thus far is to Wilson?

Give credit to senior goalkeeper Jared Jones. A member of the national youth team, Jones recorded 37 saves in five games at the tournament, including 10 against Wilson and nine against San Clemente.

In the Spartans' 8-5 victory over Newport Harbor, Jones had six saves, impressing Kreutzkamp.

"That is the least amount of goals scored by us in I don't know how many years," he said. "When you have someone like that in the goal, you are automatically a step up on everyone else."

Villa Park also has some strong offensive power in senior two-meter player T.J. Matijevich and senior driver Charlie Fisher. In five tournament games, Fisher led the Spartans with 20 goals and Matijevich added 13.

On the defensive end, junior Ross Pulver helped keep the Spartans in the game against San Clemente with five steals.

But until a county team can beat San Clemente, the Tritons will own bragging rights and only have to point to the scoreboard to show who's No. 1 . . . for now.


Does anyone besides Long Beach Wilson miss Tony Azevedo?

While many may miss watching the dominating Wilson graduate play, most are happy to sit back and watch him on TV playing for the United States in the Olympics, as opposed to seeing him manhandle their squads. His graduation has left the door open for somebody to topple the four-time defending champion Bruins.

There may be several very talented players around the Southern Section, but none as dominating as Azevedo had been. Coaches say because of that, many teams have a shot at this year's Division I championship.

"There is a lot of parity out there this year," Brumm said. "You have to be careful. There are a lot of teams that can beat you on any day. It should be a good, competitive season."


Brumm will find out just how competitive his team is this week, when fourth-ranked Foothill goes up against some of Southern California's best.

On Tuesday, the Knights (4-4) host undefeated North Hollywood Harvard Westlake, one of the top teams in Division I, at 7:30 p.m. at Tustin High. On Thursday, they play San Clemente at El Toro High at 8 p.m. Friday finds the Knights at the Coronado tournament, where several of the state's best teams will compete, including Coronado, which many coaches say is the best team in California.

"I'm really happy with how we did in the [South Coast] tournament," Brumm said. "We were surprised to get into the final four. We are still really young and this week is going to be a big test for us."


Foothill is not the only county team being tested this week.

Top-ranked San Clemente hosts sixth-ranked Los Alamitos at 3:15 p.m. today, followed by Thursday's matchup with Foothill.

Los Alamitos, which moved up in the polls this week, will meet Wilson in a 5:30 p.m. game Thursday at Belmont Plaza.

Also on tap is the three-day Villa Park tournament, which begins Thursday at 3 p.m.


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