Junior Diego Ochoa (left) has scored nearly 20 goals for Coronado. Misael Virgen
Coronado senior defender Marty Dykstra (5) has helped lead a young Islanders team to a 14-1-1 record.
The Islanders are back.
No. 8-ranked Coronado High has returned to the Top 10 as the boys soccer team tries to win its sixth San Diego Section title in the past eight years.
This season has been unusual for the Islanders, who lost 12 seniors from last year, including 10 starters. Only two seniors are expected to be in Coronado’s starting lineup for today’s 6 p.m. home match against San Diego.
“It’s truly remarkable,” Islanders coach Brian Hiatt-Aleu said. “I’m impressed and proud of our guys so far.”
Senior defender Marty Dykstra is making a solid impact this season after missing all of last year with a torn meniscus in his knee.
“My job is to lead this young team,” Dykstra said after a recent win over Hoover.
Under this season’s new playoff format, which groups teams in divisions according to program strength instead of enrollment, schools were allowed to move up a maximum of two divisions the first year.
Coronado, with about 1,000 students, has jumped from Division IV to Division II, but Hiatt-Aleu would like to see a bigger leap. He said his team is good enough to play in the top divisions.
“It’s discrimination against us smaller schools,” said Hiatt-Aleu, whose team has won the past three Division IV titles. “With our recent success and record, we’ve earned the right to play for an Open Division or Division I title.”
The inexperience of this year’s team has been a bit of an adjustment for Hiatt-Aleu, but the 2013 section Coach of the Year has been up to the challenge.
“I’ve really focused on maximizing the potential of the team this year, especially the younger guys who have never started for us before,” Hiatt-Aleu said.
Even with a younger team, he preaches much the same to a squad whose only loss is to No. 3 St. Augustine.
“I emphasize organization, especially on defense,” he said. “I want my team to focus on each individual third of the field and play fundamentally sound together.”
Coronado (14-1-1, 3-0 City League) was listed No. 10 in the preseason before quickly dropping out of the poll. The Islanders rejoined the rankings two weeks ago.
Success of this magnitude from such a young team came as a bit of a surprise, one that Dykstra thinks Hiatt-Aleu never saw coming.
“I think he thought this was going to be a rebuilding year for us,” Dykstra said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys stepping up so far, though.”
Hiatt-Aleu said he believes other teams view the Islanders as a measuring stick, resulting in a lot of tough games.
“Teams always come ready to play and give us their best,” he said. “We’ve gotten stronger because of it.”
Junior Diego Ochoa is in his first season as a varsity starter and is developing as the team’s most reliable goal-scorer.
“My focus is being in a good position to take advantage of every chance at a goal that I get,” said Ochoa, who has scored nearly 20 goals this season.
Hiatt-Aleu said his team tries to concentrate on getting better each day and not looking too far ahead.
“We know there is some good competition in Division II,” he said, “but we need to focus on what’s directly in front of us.”