SportStars Magazine

Talent & Drive

Livermore soccer is off to a balzing start after missing the 2014 playoffs by a single goal.

  By MATT SMITH | Contributor

  When assessing a program, it’s easy to ask what that program has done lately, while forgetting about achievements of the past. Even more so when those achievements came three decades ago.

  It’s no secret the Livermore High boys program doesn’t have a rich recent history, having not made the North Coast Section playoffs since 2011, which is the only time the Cowboys had made it since 2007.

  During the 2010-2011 season, it seemed the Livermore program was re-arriving on the scene, but after a 1-0 loss to De La Salle in the Division I semifinals, it sank back to obscurity.

  Until now. With half of the 2014-15 season in the rear view, it’s not a matter of whether Livermore will get into the playoffs after starting the season with 10 straight wins — it’s a matter of whether they can win East Bay Athletic League and NCS titles.

  But this year’s revival is undoubtedly tied to how the team’s previous season ended.

  It came down to the final match last February, when a win would have put the Cowboys in the playoffs. It ended in a 4-4 draw with Granada. And there were 10 other matches (five draws and five one-goal losses) where one goal would have qualified them.

  Ryan Ruley“I definitely felt that we would learn from last years mistakes to be a better team,” Livermore coach Keith Switzer said. “Which means that I believed that we would make NCS at the minimum and possibly have a shot to win the whole thing.”

  Though De La Salle has won six straight Div. I titles — and entered the year as a heavy favorite to win a seventh — Livermore surely has a chance to be the team that ends that streak, and in doing so win its first title since 1990.

  The Cowboys return two of the best scoring threats in the East Bay in Jake Foscalina and Scott Buskey, who combined to score 30 goals a year ago, as well as a number of other returning starters and talented underclassmen.

  Tony Jimenez is one of those talented returners. He is a player who controls the midfield and creates scoring opportunities. He had four assists last year, but this year already had nine through the first 12 games.

  Other key additions include a familiar last name, Dominic Foscalina, and Ryan Ruley, who have both made Livermore a better defensive team. The Cowboys are allowing .75 goals a game so far this year, compared to 2.33 last year.

  Both college baseball prospects, Dominic Foscalina and Ruley didn’t want to miss out on something special and put their baseball training on hold. Tylor Silva is another defender who has helped raise the bar for the Livermore.

  “Right now, we are defending way better than we did last year,” Switzer said. “We also have shown good resiliency, having come back from 1-0 deficits to win games, something we never did last year. We are also doing a better job of getting more players forward in the attack, instead of depending mostly on Jake.”

  You don’t start the season with victories in 10 straight matches, including wins at De La Salle and San Ramon Valley, without being talented. But the missed opportunities from a year ago provide a motivation factor that sets the Cowboys apart.

  “It most definitely played a role in the minds of our returning seniors,” Switzer said. “Both Jake and Scott have played varsity since their freshmen year and have yet to have played, or made it to, an NCS game. They don’t want to leave here after this year without making it to NCS.”

  Most outsiders looking in would have to believe the Cowboys go as Jake Foscalina goes. He scored 23 goals as a junior a season ago, and this year already had 15 goals through Max Ibanez12 matches.

  “Jake is a very good forward in that he has a nose for the goal and is deceptively quick,” Switzer said. “He has the ability to beat two or three high school defenders. He has a fantastic shot. If he gets an opportunity and time to shoot, it’s usually deadly.”

  After such a great start, the players and coaches are striving to stay very level-headed and take it one step at a time. The first step, is improving each game and hoping that
results in reaching the playoffs.

  “Our goal as a team is to make NCS and then see what we can do when we get there,” Switzer said. “We look like we’re on the right track for that goal. The good thing about this team is that they are truly believing this year that they are good enough. … Last year, we never had that belief.”

  The title would be the first in 25 years. The first came in 1982. An EBAL title would be the first since tying Berkeley for the crown in 1998, and the first outright since 1990.

  “It would be huge for this school to win a league title and even bigger for us to win an NCS title,” Switzer said. “In recent times, most of our athletic programs have hung out in the lower half of the tough EBAL so it would be nice to get some school pride in the form of a title or two. 

  “We have great people at our school, so it would be great to give them something great, something to be proud of. I know our boys soccer team will be trying their hardest to do such a thing.”

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