By John Philip Wyllie
CIF Championships occur so infrequently that it is nearly impossible to achieve that kind of success in back to back seasons. While it would be a long shot to say the least, the defending soccer champion Otay Ranch Mustangs are hoping to beat the odds. If they do a lot of the credit will go to a pair of college-bound seniors, Anthony Rodriguez and Sergio Villalva.
The Mustangs lost six starters to graduation from last years CIF Championship team, but they are off to a very respectable 8-3-3 start. Even so, surviving the strong league competition offered by Sweet-water and Bonita Vista will not be easy. If they do, they can expect an even stronger challenge from some of the North County schools awaiting them in the playoffs. Taking a lead from their captains, Villalva and Rodriguez, the Mustangs are taking it one game at a time. These talented players have been friends on and off the field for many years.
“We became friends in the fourth grade and we have played club soccer together every year since then with the exception of last year,” said Rodriguez, the 2007 San Diego Section Player of the Year. “Sergio is our center midfielder and he has really good vision and communication skills. We are always setting each other up for shots on goal.”
Last year, Rodriguez was the scourge of the South Bay tallying an amazing 27 goals. While a bit below that torrid pace, he has 11 so far this season and plans to score many more now that he has shaken off a recent bout with the flu.
Villalva played along side of Rodriguez last year as a forward. This year he was asked to fill the void at midfield created by the departure of Mesa League Player of the Year Brian Lewis. He has adjusted well to his new role and as a result the Mustangs have barely missed a beat.
“Last year, I played everywhere except the midfield. I basically played wherever coach needed me. This year I’m in a new spot and it feels a little different, so I am still trying to get used to it. I just try to do as much as I can,” Villalva said. He is a big fan of his high-scoring friend.
“You can see from last year how he brings scoring to this team, but he also brings leadership. He brings us up when we are losing and we can always count on him to score. He doesn’t have as much help this year, so scoring is harder for him, but we still try to get him the ball as much as we can.”
There is a chance that Villalva and Rodriguez will continue as teammates next year as both have been accepted to Chico State University. A more likely scenario would have them opposing each other with Rodriguez favoring San Diego State and Villalva more enamored with the San Francisco area. Whoever ends up gaining their services will no doubt be getting two quality soccer players.