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Hilltop boys soccer team once again kicking among section leaders Phillip Brents | Fri, Jan 13 2012 02:00 PM

The Hilltop High School boys soccer team is once again hovering near the top of the San Diego Section standings and that should come as no surprise considering that Omar Hernandez is leading the section in goal-scoring and teammate Jimmy Estrada is leading the section in assists.

Estrada had a goal and assist and Hernandez collected one assist in Wednesday’s 2-1 non-league victory against visiting Patrick Henry to raise the Lancers’ record to 10-2-1.

“We basically have the same players back from last year’s very successful team,” HHS head coach John Salts said. “We did lose some talented players but in some areas I think we might actually be a stronger team this season. Last year was great and we’d like to improve on that if we can by taking it one step further, and that would be by winning a CIF title.”

Hernandez entered the 2012 portion of the 2011-12 season with 13 goals and three assists while Estrada, last year’s Division II Player of the Year, had racked up seven goals and 16 assists. With 30 total points (two points for each goal, one point for each assist), Estrada held a one-point edge over Hernandez for the team scoring lead.

Estrada’s success is no surprise. He accumulated eight goals and 17 assists in helping lead the Lancers to last year’s Mesa League championship and a runner-up finish in the Division II finals (to league rival Bonita Vista).

But readers of this publication may be more familiar with Hernandez from past football and basketball seasons. Hernandez threw for 1,146 yards and rushed for a team-leading 732 yards and scored 10 touchdowns during the 2011 football season.

He helped guide the school’s boys basketball team to a 20-9 record last season.

He also turns out to be quite an accomplished soccer player at the club level for the South Bay Aztecs. According to Salts, Hernandez wanted the chance to play the sport for his school his senior year.

It’s been a wise decision soccer-wise for the Lancers, who kick off league play this coming Wednesday at Eastlake.

Hilltop reached the semifinals of both the season opening Coronado and Grossmont Conference tournaments. The Lancers, who missing several key players due to assorted reasons (including a pair who were competing at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase in Florida), lost 3-0 to Division I state champion San Clemente in the Coronado tourney on Dec. 5 and dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to Canyon Crest Academy in the Grossmont tourney on Dec. 17.

Southwest won the Coronado tournament with a 1-0 victory against San Clemente while Torrey Pines defeated Canyon Crest 3-2 to win the East County tourney.

San Pasqual carries the torch for the section in this year’s ESPN national rankings. The Golden Eagles (10-0) entered the week ranked a lofty No. 10. Coronado (5-0-1) is ranked 38th in the latest national poll, followed by No. 41 St. Augustine (7-1-2) and No. 42 Poway (7-2-4).

Hilltop and Poway dueled to a 1-1 non-league standoff on Dec. 16.

Not having a national ranking this season has actually helped the Lancers, Salts said.

“The players aren’t constantly thinking about the national rankings and what happens if we win or lose against a particular team,” the HHS coach said. “Our guys can get down to thinking about playing soccer, and the kind of soccer we want to play to be successful. National rankings are nice, but they can be a distraction sometimes.”

Abdiel Flores and Steven Jaramillo each picked up goals in Hilltop’s 2-1 win against Bishop’s on Dec. 5, with assists going to Gerardo Zuniga and Rigoberto Maciel. Adrian Zendejas had four saves to steady his goalkeeping average at 1.12.

Zendejas (16U) and Lancer teammate Enrique Maldonado (18U) both competed in the Florida showcase in early December for their San Diego Surf club team.

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