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Former Hawks competing at collegiate soccer level
Andres Velasquez - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Central Valley varsity boys soccer head coach Omar Leon watched former Hawks standout player Angel Lopez compete at the college level for the first time this past month.

Lopez and NCAA Division-II Cal State San Bernardino battled to a 1-1 tie in double overtime with Stanislaus State on Oct. 13 in Turlock.

Angel logged more than 20 minutes of playing time at center defensive midfielder during the second half.

"He was consistent with his runs," Leon said. "His passes were very accurate. He made the right decisions with and without the ball."

Fellow Central Valley grads Ozzie Ramos and Andres Velasquez are also playing college soccer for four-year schools this fall.

"I'm very proud of how they're representing our sports program from Central Valley and our community," Leon said. "I'm happy for them and their families."

Ramos starts for Division-I Seattle University, which moved to 11-3-3 on the year and 5-1-3 in the Western Athletic Conference last week.

"We're getting great results as a team," Ramos said.

Ozzie, a senior center defensive midfielder, has collected one goal and one assist in 17 games.

"It's been really fun to establish myself in the role I'm playing with my team," said Ramos, who was voted Most Valuable Player in league play twice in high school. "I've definitely matured a lot the past four years. I've learned a lot."

"Ozzie's the kind of player that's at a different level when it comes to intelligence," Leon said. "He knows how to make the best out of every play. He goes above and beyond what you ask him to do. He has so much to offer. I'm sure he can play professionally in Major League Soccer."

"That's definitely something I see myself doing," Ramos said. "Right now, the only focus is my season for Seattle University."

Lopez has appeared in 12 games as a true freshman for the Coyotes, who improved to 8-8-1 overall and 6-5-1 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association with a 1-0 win over first-place Cal Poly Pomona last Friday.

"Normally, it's really hard for freshmen to get playing time," Leon said. "It takes a year or two years to build strength and muscles needed to compete against players that are stronger. Obviously, the coaches see something Angel has to offer. He's not a starting player yet. I'm sure he will be eventually. He'll make a difference like he did at Central Valley."

"It feels great to be doing what I love," said Lopez, 17. "It's been an amazing experience. Every game is a battle. The game is so much faster. You have to play smarter. It's really challenging."

"I have no complaints," San Bernardino head coach Darren Leslie said. "He's been wonderful. He's so quiet off the field. He's different when he plays. He has more of a bite to him. He's got a physical presence. He's a great passer. He's going to be a major asset for our program."

"I've watched a couple of Angel's games," Ramos said. "He's done a great job."

Velasquez is a redshirt freshman at Division-I UC Davis, which won the 2017 Big West Conference regular-season title.

Andres is not on the Aggies' active roster.

He practices with the team.

UC Davis improved to 10-7-2 overall and 7-2-1 in conference play last week.

"They have a really good program," Leon said. "I know Andy is working really hard. I'm sure eventually he'll earn his spot. He just needs to be patient. He'll get his opportunity. He has the skill and talent to compete at that level."

"At first, it was really frustrating," said Velasquez, who was voted conference MVP after starring at attacking midfielder his senior year at Central Valley. "I felt I was practicing for nothing. Now that I think about it, I'm happy with the decision I made. I'd be wasting a year if I didn't redshirt. A lot of starting spots will be up for grabs next year because eight seniors will be graduating."

Central Valley's varsity soccer program has sent a handful of players to four-year colleges over the years, including Ramos, Lopez, Velasquez, Jose Ramirez (Stanislaus State) and Gerardo Cazares (Stanislaus State).

"It wouldn't be fair to pick who was better because they all had so much to offer," Leon said. "All of them had a great impact on our program. It would have been crazy if I had all of them together on one team."

"I'm super grateful to have come out of Central Valley," Ramos said. "There are a lot of kids that see us as examples. We try to do our best to represent all of them."

"He (Leon) does a lot for his players," Velasquez said. "He's a good guy. He's a great coach."