Gavilan College freshman Manny Lopez, a Hollister High alum, is playing the midfielder position for the Rams men's soccer team in 2023. (Gavilan Athletics)

The Gavilan College men’s soccer team finally made its return to the pitch this year after not fielding a team since 2018. 

Rams first-year head coach Josue Salgado is hoping to start fresh and rebuild the program with a team composed of 30 new players. He sees it as an exciting opportunity to reconstruct the program from scratch. 

“The best thing about this team is we have zero returners, zero sophomores, everyone is a freshman,” he said. “That’s what excites me the most about this team.”

Salgado is not letting the thought of being an entirely new squad get in the way of Gavilan competing. 

The Rams got off to their best start in the program’s history with an 8-4 overall record and at one point were ranked at No. 15 in the California Community College Athletic Association men’s soccer poll. 

“I am very proud of the way all of these boys are competing. Having zero college soccer experience, they’re all playing at a very high level,” Salgado said. 

The Rams improved to 11-6 overall and are now 4-4 in Coast Conference North Division play following a 1-0 win over Chabot College in conference action Tuesday.

Gavilan dropped out of the current CCCAA Top-20 poll but it was still considered an honorable mention.   

Salgado said he isn’t lowering his expectations just because they are considered the new kids on the block. He expects the Rams to compete and be disciplined just as an NCAA Division I team would be. 

“I’m bringing a level of expectations that are identical to the expectations set at the D-I level…the same expectations and level of discipline that were set for me as a player at [UC] Santa Barbara, I am setting here at Gavilan,” Salgado said.

Salgado may be entering his first year at the helm, but he doesn’t lack coaching experience after spending six years on the sideline following his collegiate playing career at UC Santa Barbara. 

Apart from his duties at Gavilan, he is also the head coach for the Christopher High boys’ soccer team.

Salgado said midfielder/defender Adrian Maldonado and midfielder Tony Moran have stepped up as team leaders, and have potential to be key players on the pitch for the Rams.

Maldonado, a Hollister High grad, gives a lot of credit to the coaching staff for their early success. 

“We have a great coaching staff. Our head coach played here and at the Division I level, so he knows the game and knows how to prepare us,” Maldonado said. 

Moran said everyone on the team is locked in, ready to win and coaches making expectations clear has been a big part to their success. 

“Our work ethic and desire to win plays a big part in our success…coaches told us what they expect from us and we expect to do it,” Moran said. 

Salgado praised Moran and Maldonado for taking charge of a group that hardly knew each other going into the 2023 season. 

“My two captains have really stepped up,” Salgado said. “Both of them have really bright futures.”

Salgado said the early success can be attributed to players building a great culture and keeping the same tunnel vision in helping mold the program back into a competitive one.

“Somos familia… all we care about is ourselves and winning,” Moran said.

As cliche as it sounds, Maldonado said they are just focusing on one game at a time and worrying about themselves because any outside noise doesn’t matter.

The last time Gavilan made the playoffs was 2012, yet Salgado said being a new team shouldn’t automatically eliminate them from a postseason run. 

“If we have the right players, right coaching, and have a great bond, sky’s the limit,” he said. “Does not matter whether they have all freshmen, playoffs is on our mind.”

After having the best start in program history, perhaps the sky’s the limit for this young Rams team. 

Gavilan (11-6, 4-4) will host Evergreen Valley College (13-1-1, 7-1) in Coast Conference play on Friday at 4pm. 

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