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High Schools | SPOTLIGHT ON BOYS' SOCCER

They're Not Part of Exclusive Club

January 24, 2002

Having a roster stocked with club soccer players is not mandatory for fielding a successful team at the high school level.

The Pasadena boys' squad has proved that this season.

The Bulldogs are 12-0-4 and atop the Pacific League standings with a 4-0-1 record before today's game at Glendale Hoover, but only three players on their roster--sophomore twins Nelson and Elfego Villa and freshman Yura Movsisyan--play at the highly competitive club level during the off-season.

Many of their other players take part in the Villa Park League, a Pasadena parks and recreation league.

"This is not really a team that progressed together [from the time they were little kids]," Coach Cherif Zein said about Pasadena. "But they play well together. We don't have a lot of club players, but we play solid soccer."

Pasadena, off to its best start in the program's 31-year history, took a big step toward breaking Arcadia's eight-year hold on the Pacific League title with a 3-1 victory against the Apaches last week. But Zein said the Bulldogs played scared for the first 15-20 minutes of the game.

"They were giving ground," he said of his team. "They were intimidated by the Arcadia aura. They weren't tackling great. But then they started to settle down."

Amilcar Ramirez, a three-year starter for Pasadena, said he and his teammates knew they could play with an Arcadia team that was 13-1-2 at the time, but it took a while to get the jitters out of their systems.

"Arcadia has always been the big team in league," Ramirez said. "Arcadia has always been the one that's done good in [the Southern Section playoffs]. So for the first 10-15 minutes, we were nervous."

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Home-field advantage: Team speed is one of Pasadena's strengths, but a wet, muddy field slowed the Bulldogs Tuesday in a 0-0 tie at cross-town rival Pasadena Muir.

The field was a mess because the sprinklers were on for three hours Tuesday morning, according to Zein.

"I don't think it was done on purpose," Zein said. "[Muir Coach Mario Hernandez] and I both work at Pasadena City College and he told me what happened. He said he told them not to water the field, but they did."

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Team to watch: Chino Hills Ayala has been one of the big surprises of the new year.

The Bulldogs were 4-6-2 in nonleague and tournament play, but had won their first four Sierra League games before Wednesday's contest at Damien.

Ayala (8-6-2) defeated Rowland and West Covina each by 3-2 scores in the first week of league play before stunning La Puente Nogales and Diamond Bar by identical 1-0 scores last week.

"They played totally different against us and Nogales than they did earlier in the season," Coach Bill Zylstra of Diamond Bar said.

"They played a very defensive game. Their coaches came up with a game plan and their players did a great job sticking to it."

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Rankings update: Irvine Woodbridge heads a list of nine teams from the region that are ranked among the top 25 in the nation in Student Sports magazine's latest winter poll.

Woodbridge, the preseason No. 1, is ranked third, with Long Beach Millikan fifth, Los Alamitos sixth, Alta Loma 10th, Temecula Chaparral 11th, Dana Hills 13th, Huntington Beach Marina 18th, Fountain Valley 19th and Santa Margarita 21st.

John Ortega

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