Joe Cortez: Enochs can wrap up sixth consecutive Modesto Metro Conference girls soccer title

04/09/2014 6:18 PM

04/09/2014 7:18 PM

The Enochs High girls soccer team can clinch its sixth consecutive Modesto Metro Conference title today when it hosts Downey at the Mary Grogan Soccer Complex at 3:30 p.m.

Wait, let me start over.

The Enochs girls soccer team will clinch its sixth consecutive Modesto Metro Conference title today when it hosts Downey at the Mary Grogan Soccer Complex at 3:30 p.m.

No disrespect to the Knights, one of four league teams with a record of .500 or better, but the Eagles simply are the best team in the MMC, undefeated this season with only two losses during their six-year championship run.

In fact, ever since seniors have graced the halls of the relatively new campus, which opened in the fall of 2006 with freshmen and sophomores, Enochs has never failed to win the MMC title. The run started under Phillip Jaramillo and continues under second-year head coach Josh Handley.

Much of Enochs High’s success is tied into the achievements of the Modesto Ajax Elite 18-under team.

The California Youth Soccer Association squad, coached by Kico Monares (Handley’s assistant at Enochs), upset Bay Oaks (Oakland) 2-1 on penalty kicks last weekend to reach the Northern California State Cup finals. On May 10, they’ll play Lamorinda United of Lafayette, ranked No. 1 in Northern California and 27th in the nation, according to gotsoccer.com. Ajax is ranked seventh in NorCal and 67th in the country.

It’s this type of top-shelf competition that sharpens Enochs, since seven members of the Ajax team are also on the Eagles roster. And it’s an obscure CIF rule that even allows Enochs players to compete for Ajax during their high school season.

The CIF has declared that players cannot play for an outside organization while competing for their high school team. Basketball players, for example, can’t play for a church league while competing for their high school squad.

But as far as the CIF is concerned, girls soccer is a winter sport (it’s played during the spring in just four of the state’s 10 sections), allowing Sac-Joaquin Section players to compete for school and club simultaneously.

If not for the loophole, many, if not most, Sac-Joaquin Section players would choose club over school.

“Club soccer is more serious than high school,” said Enochs junior Kim Kiep, a strong candidate for the MMC’s most valuable player award who has an offer in hand from William Jessup University in Rocklin. “And it’s where you’re going to get the attention from colleges.”

Don’t be confused, though. The Eagles are intent on winning the school’s first Sac-Joaquin Section title after getting knocked out the past two seasons in the second round.

But that won’t be easy.

A look at the MaxPreps state rankings reveals that nine of the state’s top 10 teams reside in the Sac-Joaquin Section (remember: only four of the state’s 10 sections are currently playing soccer) and seven of those nine teams will compete in the D1 playoffs. No. 5 Vintage (Napa) could make it eight, but it’s on the D1/2 bubble; No. 2 East Union is a Division 3 school.

That’s a huge minefield, but one the Eagles are prepared to navigate.

One step Enochs has taken to ensure it’s ready for the playoffs is to practice and play games at Mary Grogan, which is equipped with artificial turf and plays truer than some of the pastures in the MMC. Plus, it’s what they’ll play on during the postseason.

“We have to pay a little more than $2,000 to rent this facility for practices and games, and most of our fundraising efforts go toward that,” said Handley. “But we think it’s worth it.”

To get as many home games as possible, the Eagles need to finish business in the MMC. That starts today with the Knights, whom Enochs defeated 6-0 on March 18 at Downey High.

The Eagles know this is no time to get caught looking ahead, especially after a couple of close calls this season – a 2-1 win over second-place Beyer on Tuesday and 1-0 win at home against Davis on April 1.

“We’ve reached the second round in playoffs the last two years and we’re obviously looking to do better this year,” said Kiep. “We know we have to work harder and do things that other teams won’t.

“None of us like to lose; that’s why it’s so important.”

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