Ernesto Cruz never left Palo Alto High, he just left the soccer coaching sidelines for about 10 years. He returned this season and things are pretty much the same. The Vikings are off to solid start, winning their first three games, including Monday's 1-0 nonleague victory over visiting St. Francis.
"There's so much talent on this team that I'm using the preseason to give everybody an opportunity," Cruz said. "We'll have our starters in for 10 minutes and then see how it goes. Right now it's not about winning or losing. We're focusing on league."
Paly has already played, and shut out, two teams that were in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs last year and Saturday's 1 p.m. game at Mitty will be its third Open team.
"We want to focus on playing a good game," Cruz said. "We don't want to make mental mistakes. We'll keep working hard."
The Vikings lost seven seniors off a team that finished 14-1-4 last year and lost in the first round of the Open Division, to M-A.
Emily Tomz and Ally Scheve, who are serving as co-captains, are among the five seniors who Cruz praised for their leadership.
Tomz is one of the top players in the section, a fluid midfielder who is terrific at anticipating play and being in the right place.
Scheve is more of a defensive midfielder on a team that values defense. The Vikings allowed four goals all of last year, three in one game. They gave up five goals in 19 games two years ago.
Goalkeeper Clara Luehrs, also a senior, holds up her end of the bargain at a high level. She doesn't seem to get flustered, remaining cool under pressure. She possesses great vision on the field and communicates well with her team. Courtney Cox, who also played last year, and Isabella Bonomi are the other two seniors.
Luehrs recorded four saves against the Lancers while Palo Alto scored early and then held on for the victory. Venus Sandoval was credited with the victory after redirecting a shot by Frida Rivera, who got the assist. Bonomi got the ball to Rivera.
St. Francis hosts San Benito on Tuesday.