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Ortiz, Castaneda celebrate links to Sockers’ storied past Phillip Brents | Fri, Jan 31 2014 02:35 PM

The San Diego Sockers, version 3.0, continue to link to the franchise’s past glory, and South County continues to occupy a spot in Sockers’ lore.

The latest edition of the team, now competing in the PASL-Pro, held its annual Reunion Night on Jan. 11. Among those present were two Indoor Soccer Hall of Famers: former Sockers goalkeeper Zoltan Toth and scoring wizard Juli Veee.

The alumni, more than a dozen, were introduced to cheers — and likely, among some, even tears — at halftime of the match against the Las Vegas Legends. Among those represented were former Metro Conference high school standouts Rene Ortiz (Southwest High School) and Gus Castaneda (Bonita Vista High School).

Also on board were former Sockers player Jacques LaDouceur, a Chula Vista resident during his playing days with the team, and, of course, Norbert Stein, who at the spry age of  100, remains the team’s official No. 1 fan.

Among other alumni to make the reunion date were Waad Hirmez, Paul Wright, Guy Newman, Paul Dougherty, Brian Negrete and Nate Hetherington.

Ortiz termed the annual event a special time in the lives of all the great Sockers alumni.

“It’s a chance to see where we were and where we all are now,” said Ortiz, who now coaches the girls soccer team at Hilltop High School as well as the Xolos USA Academy program.

“It’s really great seeing guys from the old days. The thing you remember is the magic. Considering that I was 17 and just out of high school, coming to the Sockers was hard to believe at first, it was something special.”

Ortiz is now helping grow a new legion of soccer stars.

The Xolos youth development program features a mini-division for ages under-4 to under-7 and additional divisions from 8U to 19U — 12 teams in all.

Practices are Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Hilltop High School.

The Hilltop girls team entered this week with an 8-4-1 record and will kick off play in the newly-formed Metro-Pacific League next Wednesday against visiting Sweetwater.

The Lancers, who will compete in the Division I playoffs, defeated host Montgomery, 8-0, last Friday and bested Southwest, 6-2, on Wednesday.

“This year we have a great freshman class,” Ortiz said. “On any given day we can compete and hold our own against the top teams in our division. We have another month before we have to think about the playoffs.”

Sockers update
The Chicago Mustangs have been selected to host this year’s PASL-Pro Final Four, meaning the Sockers will likely have to win two elimination playoff games to advance to their fifth consecutive league finals tournament.

The Sockers swept a pair of games in Mexico last weekend — 12-4 at Saltillo on Saturday and 8-6 at Monterrey on Sunday — to improve to 11-3 on the season but trail Las Vegas (11-2) by one-half game in the Pacific Division standings. The Sockers host their final two regular season games at the Valley View Casino Center: Feb. 1 against the Toros de Mexico and Feb. 9 against Ontario.

Former SDSU standout Kraig Chiles leads the Sockers with 34 goals and 19 assists in 14 games played while another ex-Aztec, Aaron Susi, ranks third in team scoring with 10 goals and 12 assists. Among other county products, Valhalla grad Anthony Medina ranks fifth in team scoring with 13 goals and four assists.

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