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Boys soccer 2012-13 season preview
SAN CLEMENTE – After coaching boys soccer for more than 20 years, Mike Pronier has learned to never take anything for granted.
Good teams, ones that have the talent and potential to win a CIF championship, sometimes have a way of making a much earlier than expected exit in the playoffs.
So now the San Clemente coach said he likes to be realistic and not "overshoot," setting goals that put unfair expectations on his Tritons.
With that being said, though, he has said that he would like to be back in the Division 1 championship game on the first weekend in March.
"I think we can win (the South Coast) league, too, but that is no gimme," he said. "The main thing is not to talk beyond that (league)."
The Tritons enter the season as the No. 1 team in the county and ranked No. 4 in the CIF-SS preseason Division 1 poll.
And to get his team ready for a possible deep run in the playoffs, Pronier has put together a difficult schedule. It includes perennial CIF-championship contender Santa Barbara and nationally ranked powerhouse Brophy Prep from Phoenix, Ariz.
"I just hope to keep things rolling, take it one game at a time and make it back to the championship," Pronier said. "If you talk about it too much it doesn't happen, but we know things are possible."
The Tritons will once again feature a tough defense, which has been shored up by the addition of senior defender Collin McDermott, who returns to the Tritons after a stint playing academy soccer.
But this team has the potential to score some goals, too.
When San Clemente won the So Cal Regional championship two seasons ago, two players – Steve Palacios and Tom Wiechert – led the Tritons' attack in the final third.
But this year, senior forward Gage Zerboni said the Tritons are faster and more skilled as a team, and everyone has the "hunger for the goal."
"Everyone seems to want the ball and make the team the best that it can be," Zerboni said. "We are really coming together as a team, and since most of us have been playing together for so long, everything seems to be coming easier."
When Zerboni was on the regional championship team as a sophomore two years ago, he said he was rather naïve and just a part of the team.
This year, though, he said he knows he has the ability to change a game and the way the Tritons play.
Last season he finished with a team-leading 51 points, coming off of 20 goals and 11 assists. He accounted for three of the Tritons' six goals through the first three rounds of the playoffs, earning him a spot on the Register's All-County first team.
He knows that and much more will likely be expected out of him this season.
"This year, I need to do my job up top, working hard and finishing," Zerboni said. "I just need to score goals. I need to do my part because with the offense that we have this year, we can really do well."
Zerboni will have one of the top midfielders in the county feeding him the ball – senior Oscar Vasquez.
They have been playing together since elementary school, so Vasquez knows exactly where Zerboni is going to make his run.
Vasquez, too, has changed his approach to the game since helping to lead the Trtions through their historic season two years ago, which resulted in the school's first boys soccer championship.
"I care more this year. Gage and I we can help move the team along and win some games," Vasquez said. "This year, I want to be more confident with the ball and take some more shots. I want to go undefeated, win league, go to CIF and get back to state (the So Cal Regional)."