SAMOHI — It may be early, but Santa Monica’s boys soccer team is thinking big.

Just two years removed from a California Interscholastic Federation state title and coming off a third-round playoff loss last season, Head Coach Serafin Rodriguez sees the upcoming season with optimistic eyes.

“We hope this team is going to carry us,” he said. “Not sure if we are as good as [the CIF title] team, but we feel we have enough to go deep into the playoffs.”

Just one game into the season — a 2-2 tie against powerhouse Millikan on Tuesday — and Rodriguez can already see an improvement from last year’s team that made a successful playoff run but was short on chemistry.

While the team features few senior starters, new editions to the Vikings have given the team what he called a good mix of experience and talented young players.

Chief among the new faces is freshman midfielder Manny Serrano, who has been on Rodriguez’ radar for a number of years.

“He’s one of those special kids,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a playmaker, a tough kid.”

Serrano joins a starting lineup anchored by senior goalie Michael Freedman, a returnee from last year. On defense, the Vikings are starting a pair of first-year varsity players in Trevor Kovacs and Nick Herrera. Also on the back line are seniors Matt Ginsberg and Raul Jimenez. All four defenders were on the junior varsity team last season.

At midfield, Samohi starts Serrano along with returning starters Christian Marcial and Jainish Narain. Daniel Hulbert joins the starting midfield in his first varsity turn.

Upfront are returning starters Juan Cabon and Richard Martinez.

“We really like what we see compared to last year,” Rodriguez said.

Up next for Samohi is a road game against Lynwood today.

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