Last Monday had already become a rough day for the Santa Monica High boys soccer team, which was swept by South Gate-South East in a nonconference duel at the South Torrance tournament.
But the challenges were only beginning to unfold.
The Vikings had to play again later that afternoon, this time against San Pedro. They were shorthanded, too, because a few players were out of town with school closed for winter vacation and several others were nursing injuries. Then it started to rain.
But a Hollywood ending wasn’t written for Samohi, which finished the 2015 portion of its campaign with a loss in a penalty-kick shootout after playing to a 3-3 tie.
Still, there was enough to convince coach Corey Prost that the Vikings are capable of a successful season in his second year at the helm.
“I was proud of the way we fought back into the game,” said Prost, whose team gave up an early goal in the preseason setback. “We’ve had a slow start in terms of results, but we’re hoping to get everyone healthy and make a push for league and another push for playoffs.”
At least in one way, the program is more stable now than it was this time last year. Prost, a Samohi alumnus who is currently in his second year at the helm, has become more familiar with his roster and his players are more comfortable in his system.
“There’s always a bit of transition [the first year],” he said. “This year, it’s going very smoothly. We’ve got a great group of guys who are really committed to improving themselves. I’m proud of the progress they’ve made so far.”
Whether Prost’s team can bounce back from a poor showing in nonconference play remains to be seen. The Vikings, who last year lost to Santa Paula in the wild-card round of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs and finished with a 7-12-1 record, were just 1-6 this season entering their nonconference finale Jan. 8 on the road against Manhattan Beach-Mira Costa.
This year’s squad features a combination of senior leadership and inexperienced talent. Providing stability are senior co-captains Kohl Buitenveld and Mostafa Diab.
Buitenveld “makes our midfield tick,” Prost said. “He’s good at distributing the ball and playing the ball we’d like him to play.”
Diab, who usually plays at center back, bolsters a defense that is anchored by goalkeepers Emilio Medina, Saba Maknouni and Nate Comay.
“When he’s out on the field,” Prost said, “we’re very strong defensively in the back.”
Prost is also expecting a standout campaign from sophomore Owen Koetters, a midfielder who earned ample playing time in the varsity ranks as a freshman.
“He’s been very good for us in the middle,” Prost said. “He’s created a lot in our attack.”
Samohi’s attack is predicated on a complex style that involves precise ball movement from the back line to the forwards. It’s a style that Prost learned from former club coach Keith West, who now runs the women’s soccer program at Cal State Northridge — and a style that he believes will help his team succeed in the Ocean League and beyond.
Conference play begins Jan. 13 on the road against Hawthorne.
“The bar for us is to improve every day,” Prost said. “It’s a style the kids aren’t used to playing, but it’s to prepare them to play at the next level.”
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, email@example.com or on Twitter.