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Boys' soccer preview: New league is loaded with local talent
The winner of the inaugural Pikes Peak Athletic Conference’s boys’ soccer title will not only be a league champion, but likely a serious contender for a state crown in November.
With the 4A ranks realigned to separate Colorado Springs schools into two eight-team leagues, the brunt of the area’s talent pool has shifted to the PPAC. Six of the eight teams in the ultracompetitive division were state qualifiers last season, including quarterfinalists Air Academy (15-3) and Cheyenne Mountain (14-4).
Palmer Ridge (12-5), Sand Creek (11-5-1), Vista Ridge (8-6-2) and Lewis-Palmer (6-9-1) were the other 2011 state qualifiers from the PPAC, while Discovery Canyon (8-6-1) was right there knocking on the door. PPAC teams were 79-48-5 (.598) in 2011 and constituted nearly 19 percent of the state’s 32 state tournament participants.
In a word, the league is loaded.
“I think it’s really going to prepare our team for postseason play,” said Palmer Ridge coach Nick Odil, whose Bears begin their season Thursday against Silver Creek. “You don’t get any easy games, so you’ve got to be ready to go every game. I think that anybody who comes out of our league into the postseason will be a contender because of all the pressure they’ve been under during the season.”
For the players, the new league presents the chance for them to play a daunting gantlet of games each week as they work to get better and gain momentum for the playoffs.
“We’re excited about playing some good teams on a more regular basis,” Palmer Ridge senior midfielder Owen Braley said. “I think it’ll be a lot of fun playing all these teams, especially with it being my senior year. We’re looking pretty good — we still have some things we can work on — but I think we’ll hit our stride sometime soon.”
Odil’s peers are also eager to see how the league plays out in 2012.
“The new PPAC is exciting,” Air Academy coach Espen Hosoien said. “I think it will be a very competitive and high-quality conference.”
Vista Ridge coach Steve Dimit believes the PPAC is as tough as any 4A league in the state.
“The balance of power has definitely shifted into the new Pikes Peak Athletic Conference,” Dimit said. “It will be very interesting to see how our conference compares with others in the state, particularly JeffCo and the Northern conference. The PPAC may be the strongest soccer conference in 4A.”
It all begins for the PPAC on Sept. 20, when Palmer Ridge squares off against Cheyenne Mountain and Air Academy faces Sand Creek.