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If the preseason is any indicator, Freedom’s boys soccer team is positioning itself to be awfully hard to beat as it tries to repeat as Bay Valley Athletic League (BVAL) champions.

With only one preseason match remaining before the start of the league season, Freedom sits at 8-3-1. Naturally, that’s left coach Sal Acevedo with a positive feeling about where his team stands.

“Our record 8-3-1 has included matches against schools that will certainly be expected to make NCS playoffs and go far,” Acevedo said. “We enter the Tri-Valley Challenge tournament each year with the intention of facing high-level competition against top DI programs. It has served its purpose, as I feel each year we compete well against them, and we are better adapting to their style of play. This raises our confidence every time we face teams outside our league.”

Offensively, the Falcons attack has been sparked by junior forward Alberto Padilla, senior forward Eduardo Navarro and freshman forward Rahim Qiyami, who have notched nine, eight, and six goals, respectively.

Acevedo also cited the performances of junior midfielder Alex Pantoja, sophomore midfielder Jacob Lepore, freshman midfielder Elias Castro, senior defender Giovanni Maya and junior defender Roberto Martinez.

“Our strength this year is going to be the depth we have at almost every position on the field,” the coach said. “It creates great competition during training. This helps us improve in the areas we target. Our team has a mix of young and experienced players, but all having great technique, ability and understanding of the game.”

Depth is always important, and has been especially relevant for the Falcons this season. It’s helped them overcome the loss of senior defender Gustavo Iñiguez, who is out for the season nursing a torn ACL and meniscus.

“It is a huge loss and you just hate to see this happen, especially to a senior, but it is part of sports, and one which opens an opportunity for other teammates to step up and shine. It is also an opportunity to form a stronger team bond. Each time a player on the team suffers, we all feel it and go out and work harder to honor them.”

On Saturday, Jan. 11, Freedom will host De Anza for a 10 a.m. game. That will be the final preseason game for the Falcons. They’ll open the BVAL slate on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at 6 p.m. on the road against Heritage. Freedom’s first home league game will come against Liberty on Thursday, Jan. 16, at 6 p.m.

Acevedo expects the league play to be tough but knows his team is ready to get BVAL play underway.

“We are excited to begin league play,” he said. “We know, as is expected each year, the competition will be fierce in the BVAL. We expect several programs to compete for the league title. We are the defending champions, and that brings an added incentive in our attempt to achieve our goals.”

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