PARACHUTE - The Grand Valley High School boys soccer team did a lot of learning in the 2011 season. The Cardinals plan to take advantage of their new knowledge this year.
"We got a lot better as the season went on," said Grand Valley coach Eric Sarno, who enters his second year as the Cardinals' coach in the school's third year with a boys soccer program. "There's a definite desire to improve on last year."
The record from a year ago says there's a long way to go, as Grand Valley finished with a 1-14-0 overall record, 1-7-0 in the 3A Region 3 standings. Sarno, however, feels an improvement is right around the corner, after watching his players participate in adult soccer leagues and improve this summer.
That kind of work ethic is something Sarno liked to see, and the things those players picked up gave the coach plenty of encouragement for the Cardinals' 2012 campaign.
"There's a different kind of attitude with these guys now then there was last year," Sarno said. "All our returning players came into this season wanting to prove this is going to be a different season."
The Cardinals enter the season in a different-looking league. Hotchkiss dropped down to the 2A classification and Rifle made the jump to 4A. In their place will be Moffat County of Craig, which dropped from 4A, and Vail Christian, which has the enrollment of a 1A school.
There are a lot of returning players from last year, although the Cardinals lost six players to graduation. Even so, six returning starters grace the roster this season and are joined by a few newcomers Sarno feels could have a positive impact.
Senior forward Luis Vicencio returns as the team's leading scorer from a year ago. And sophomore defender and midfielder Ben Coleman, along with senior defender Luis Mancinas, will anchor the Cardinals' back line. Other returning starters include junior midfielders Luis Pena, Santos Cornejo and Francisco Vicencio.
Some key newcomers to the Grand Valley roster, Sarno said, include freshman defender and midfielder Jesus Reygoza and seniors Will Hinkle and Tucker Schultz.
The Cardinals open the season with a home match against Vail Mountain at 4 p.m. today. They'll play against Center out of Denver at 7 p.m. Friday on the first day of the Lake County Invitational in Leadville, followed by Saturday games against Lake County (8 a.m.) and The Pinnacle (1 p.m.).