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Plano

Soccer: Solid core of veteran players have Reapers' hopes high

Plano captain Alban Hoti goes all out trying to make a play against Newark during the 2016 season. Hoti, who had nine goals and 10 assists last season, will be one of the Reapers' top players this fall.
Plano captain Alban Hoti goes all out trying to make a play against Newark during the 2016 season. Hoti, who had nine goals and 10 assists last season, will be one of the Reapers' top players this fall.

Welcoming back a solid group of seniors, Plano has reason to be excited this fall.

“We are returning a core of veterans who have learned to play well together,” Reapers coach Tom Dean said. “We know each other and how to play together.”

The Reapers finished 11-9-1 overall and 6-4 in conference a season ago, but are hopeful to find even better success thanks to its talented returning players.

Senior goalkeeper Trevor Scott (188 saves in 2016) and fellow seniors Alban Hoti (nine goals, 10 assists), Omar Alanis (three assists as adefender), Eric Nunez (three goals, four assists) and Emmanuel Valles (one goal, one assist as a defender) are the team’s top returning players.

Juniors Diego Pantoja and Sebastian Esparza are welcome additions to the squad and should make an impact this season as well.

“We are a physically small team,” Dean said. “And we struggle on set pieces, but we should be able to find success this season.”

Some teams bank on set pieces for a lot of their scoring, but the Reapers likely won’t do that since that’s one of the team’s weaknesses. Still, it’s something that could improve during the course of the season, which would be a huge plus.

“We need to get better at that because last year a lot of goals came on ground balls because we weren’t winning balls on top,” Nunez said. “We have some height this year and I think that will help.”

While Dean said the Reapers would be physically small, Nunez thinks they’ll still be tough, especially after committing themselves to offseason weight room training.

“A lot the guys focused on getting bigger and better in the offseason, especially those who are going to be seniors,” Nunez said. “I think we’re more physically capable of doing that and we have a bunch of talent. A lot of us are hungry to play good and everything.”

Nunez can recall looking up to seniors and now that he is one, he wants to finish strong.

“Since it’s the end, I’m bittersweet about it, but not emotional,” he said. “I don’t think it’s hit me yet that it’s senior year. I’m sure it’ll hit me later.”

He’s also looking to have plenty of fun while hopefully collecting a dozen or more wins to surpass last year’s total. With what he calls “great team chemistry” and “lots of talent” both appear to be goals that are well within reach.

Plano opens its season Aug. 21 at Newark. Its home opener is Aug. 28 against Ottawa.

“Alban Hoti and I have always played together so team chemistry is a strength without a doubt,” Nunez said. “After four years with these guys, I’m hoping this year is better than ever.”

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