Updated March 2, 2021 - 6:32 pm
Equipo Academy turned heads on the soccer field in 2019, its first year as a full member of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.
The Yeti boys posted an 11-8-4 record despite loading their nonleague schedule with large Clark County School District opponents.
In league play, they finished second at 10-3-1 to a Western team that won the Class 3A state championship. Equipo reached the state semifinals and had lofty goals for 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the season.
The Yeti are one of nine Southern Nevada teams that will take the field this spring. They won’t have the CCSD schools to measure themselves against, but will have opportunities to take on giants in Faith Lutheran and Bishop Gorman, which went 26-0-1 last season to win the 4A state championship.
“Those are my favorite games when we play those bigger programs because they have a history,” said Equipo coach Salvador Garcia, who won two 3A state championships as a player at Tech. “It’s exciting to play a school that has (several) state. Whenever we play a school that’s bigger than us, they’re like, who are they? Where did they come from?”
Equipo is a small college prep academy on the east side of Las Vegas that Garcia said has an enrollment of about 300 students.
That makes it difficult to compete against schools that have 10 times or more students but makes the school’s immediate success all the sweeter.
“Last year was something special,” senior goalkeeper Roberto Santana said. “Nobody really expected us to make it where we did, so we managed to prove a lot of schools wrong. It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to compete for (state) this year, but I’m proud of what we’re building.”
There will be no postseason in the abbreviated season, but Santana said he will compete as hard as ever to set an example for younger players.
Equipo players are confident they have a strong core that will be successful in the fall, and playing this spring should serve as an extended preseason.
“It’s a big advantage because we have time to communicate and get to know each other more,” sophomore defender Orlando Zurita said. “There are going to be new people playing, so we need to take advantage of this time together.”
The Yeti get their shot at Faith Lutheran on March 11 and close their season against Gorman on April 6.
Gorman lost eight seniors off its state championship team and has a new coach in Kyle McKenna, but there are 11 seniors who will play their final games for the Gaels this spring.
McKenna said he doesn’t know much about the smaller schools, such as Equipo, that his team will face. But he thinks two games against Faith Lutheran, which reached the 4A Mountain Region semifinals last season, will give him an idea of where the Gaels stand.
“I’m really looking to pull together stronger team unity,” McKenna said. “Obviously we’re coming off a great season, so we’re using the short season to dial in on some fine things and always put our best foot forward.”
This story has been updated to include the correct name of a player.
Players to watch
— Fernando Alas, forward, Equipo Academy: The junior scored 12 goals and had three assists.
— Landon Amick, goalkeeper, Faith Lutheran: The senior was the Mountain Region Goalkeeper of the Year with seven shutouts and had one assist.
— Diesel Fiore, goalkeeper, Bishop Gorman: The senior led the valley with 13 shutouts, including a 1-0 win over Eldorado in the 4A state championship game. He also had two assists.
— Ari Servent, forward, Faith Lutheran: The senior had 12 goals and four assists.
— Aidan Yamachika, midfielder, Bishop Gorman: The senior and returning captain had eight goals and five assists.