San Jose, Calif. - San Jose State University men’s soccer head coach Gary St. Clair has announced the signing of four prospects to a National Letter-of-Intent for the 2008 season, with all of them bringing Olympic Development Program experience to the Spartans.
Mauricio Murillo, Kyle Novak, Steven Sanchez and Oscar Yniguez will be joining St. Clair’s squad for his 19th season at the helm of his alma mater. Murillo, Novak and Sanchez have played together over various periods of time for the Region IV team of the Olympic Development Program (ODP). Murillo and Sanchez have also performed together in club soccer, for the Mount Hamilton Lobitos. The duo was coached over the last year and a half at the U-17 level by current San Jose State assistant coach Chris Behler.
Three of the four newcomers are currently at Northern California high schools, with two of them in the South Bay, while Novak is an Oregon product.
“I would characterize this as an outstanding class,” exclaims St. Clair. “We have kept our numbers low. We were looking for quality. We had a very good recruiting class last year, with high numbers. This year, I think that all four of these guys will make an immediate impact in our program. They are just all very good players.
“They have all played at very high levels, and will complement the good, young players we have in the program now.”
San Jose State redshirted no fewer than 12 true freshmen in 2007, while getting solid contributions in midfield throughout the season from rookies Efrain Burgos, Jr., and Ricky Dorrego.
Murillo, of no relation to junior-to-be Edward Murillo-Jimenez, is a midfielder from Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, Calif. He was a US Youth Soccer Far West Region IV ODP competitor for the past three years, as a pool player this past year after active participation the previous two. He was the Wilcox Most Valuable Player and a first-team all-league selection as a junior.
“Mauricio is the most versatile of all of them,” says St. Clair. “Mauricio does everything well. I don’t think he has a real weakness to his game. He can play as a holding midfielder, which is one of the most important positions on your team. His distribution is good. His vision is good. He comes out of the midfield extremely well. He is strong in the tackle. He can also play in other positions as well. He can play in attacking midfield. He can probably also play in the back on the outside. He’s just a good, all-around, consistent performer.”
Novak, out of Winston Churchill High School in Eugene, Ore., brings great size to the goalkeeper position at 6-4. He was involved in Region IV ODP the last three years as well, as a participant in 2005 and pool player the last two years. Novak has also been the Oregon state ODP goalie for three years. He was the captain and Most Valuable Player as a junior and senior at Winston Churchill. Novak just recently joined the club side, Eugene Metro Futbol Club.
“I believe Kyle has a real top end, a real bright future in this game,” comments St. Clair. “He has the size and the intelligence that goalkeepers need to be very successful. He is a big boy, obviously. He has a lot of hard work in front of him. We have two very good goalkeepers (in Richard Mann and Lewis Sweeney) that will finish their eligibility this coming fall, and Kyle will have every opportunity to step in during the fall of 2009 to start for us.”
Sanchez, a forward out of nearby Piedmont Hills High School in San Jose, participated in Region IV ODP in 2007. He is a three-time All-Blossom Valley Athletic League selection, with this year’s awards still pending. Sanchez made the All-BVAL West Valley Division second team while leading PHHS to the division title with a record of 9-4-4 overall and 9-1-2 in league play in 2004-05. The following year, he was the Santa Teresa Division Sophomore of the Year and a first-team All-BVAL pick as Piedmont Hills finished second behind future teammate Dorrego’s Lincoln squad with a 10-4-4 overall mark and 6-2-4 in BVAL action. A three-time team captain for head coach Erik Gaspar, Sanchez was the Santa Teresa Division Co-Junior of the Year and again a first-team All-BVAL honoree last season.
Sanchez led the Pirates to a 10-8-3 overall record this season. They lost at top-seeded Bellarmine College Prep in the first round of the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs, 3-2, on Wednesday, February 13. Sanchez notched his side’s opening goal to give them a 2-1 edge at the break, but the host Bells scored twice in the second half to advance. Piedmont Hills posted an 8-3-3 mark in the BVAL Santa Teresa Division, placing second. Sanchez produced 20 goals and 10 assists for 50 total points over 15 games played, including three-goal hat tricks in home wins over Evergreen Valley and James Lick last December.
Remarks St. Clair, “Steven is the most dynamic player of the group. He is very, very quick. He knows how to score goals. He can get in behind people. He is certainly a player that if you give him half a chance, he will burn you. I would describe him as a bit of lightning in a bottle. He is going to add some real pace. We already have a quick team. He is going to make it even quicker. I like his nose for the goal. I think he is going to be a very good player.”
With the Mount Hamilton Lobitos, Murillo and Sanchez have teamed up for four consecutive Cal North State Cup championships at different age levels. They also helped the Lobitos storm through both the regional and national tournaments in winning all nine games by a combined score of 39-7, on their way to the US Club Soccer U-17 Super Group title under Behler at the 2007 National Cup IV in Greensboro, N.C., July 21-24, 2007.
Yniguez is a midfielder out of Woodside High School in Redwood City, Calif. He plays his club soccer for the Juventus (Strikers) Sport Club, based in Redwood City. Though not a Region IV ODP participant, Yniguez has ODP experience at the state level. He helped the Cal-North squad to the ODP regionals while in the eighth grade. Yniguez was the 2006 Super Y-League North American Finals Team Most Valuable Player at the U-15 level with Juventus S.C., thus earning an invitation to the exclusive Super Y-League ODP National Camp.
Yniguez was the Peninsula Athletic League Midfielder of the Year, a first-team All-PAL Bay Division selection and team Most Valuable Player as a junior at Woodside. The Wildcats outlasted Serra after a 1-1 tie and a penalty kick tiebreaker in the first round of the 2007 Central Coast Section Division I playoffs. He was a team co-captain in his just-concluded fourth and final year on the varsity squad under head coach Juan Caballero. The Wildcats had their season end at 11-3-7 following a 3-2 home loss to Gunn High School in the CCS Division I first round on Wednesday, February 13. Like Sanchez’s Piedmont Hills, Woodside had a 2-1 halftime lead, but were unable to hang on. Yniguez scored one goal and assisted on the other.
The Wildcats tied atop the Bay Division with rival Sequoia High School at an undefeated 6-0-4 in league play, having played to a 1-1 draw with the Cherokees at home in their only meeting. Despite missing the first five games, Yniguez produced 17 goals and eight assists for 42 total points while taking 65 shots over the remaining 16 contests. He recorded a three-goal hat trick in a 10-1 demolition of Harbor High School of Santa Cruz, Calif., during the Homestead Christmas Cup last December.
Yniguez, who has a 3.5 grade-point average, plans on majoring in engineering, and was also pursued by UCLA and Santa Clara.
“Oscar is a special, mature player,” says St. Clair. “The great thing about Oscar is that he rarely ever gives the ball away. He’s got a wonderful left side. He makes other players around him better. He can finish. He can distribute. He can play on the left side. He can play in the middle. He is a very special player on the ball. When you get a chance to get a player of his caliber, you better get him, and so I’m quite pleased he’s coming here.”
2008 San Jose State University Men’s Soccer Signees
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown/Last School
Mauricio Murillo MF 5-7 145 Santa Clara, Calif./Wilcox HS
Kyle Novak GK 6-4 185 Eugene, Ore./Winston Churchill HS
Steven Sanchez F 5-7 150 San Jose, Calif./Piedmont Hills HS
Oscar Yniguez MF 5-7 140 Redwood City, Calif./Woodside HS