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Hernandez, Luzanilla lead historic list of AWC Soccer signees at 4-year schools

Soccer-ballRecord number of Matador Soccer players find four-year homes

Yuma, Arizona – July 24, 2013 – Arizona Western College is proud to announce that eight members of the AWC Soccer team have signed official letters of intent to attend four-year schools and play soccer for the schools this fall.  Both goalkeeper Oscar Hernandez and Erik Luzanilla (LOOZ-uh-NEE-yuh) have signed with Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas; three different Matadors have signed with California schools (midfielder Bryan Orta at the University of California-Riverside, defender Bryan Portillo at California Baptist University also in Riverside, and forward Mario Soto at Concordia University in Irvine; fellow forward Donal Landrum will also sign with another Concordia University, this one in Seward, Nebraska; defender Angel Figueroa is heading to Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas; and fellow defender Jordan Burns has decided to move to the four-year level one year early as he signs with Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.  It’s the largest class of outgoing signees in the history of Matador Men’s Soccer for a single year.  The announcement comes just two months after the eight student-athletes made their final appearances as students on the AWC campus in May.

Today’s announcement is the final jewel of success in completing the two-year career of Oscar Hernandez.  As an upstart freshman, Hernandez never blinked in following outgoing Matador goalkeeper and reigning ACCAC Goalkeeper of the Year Dejan Milosevic by matching that award after just one year.  Never one to rest on his previous achievements, the native of Los Angeles, California, was just as strong between the pipes last year as a sophomore, posting 11 shutouts in 2012 (including a string of 5 straight shutouts in early September (a whopping total of 474 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal), and allowed opponents to score 2 or more goals in a match just 4 times.  Hernandez finished the season with a .85 goals-against average.  Hernandez earned 2nd Team All-ACCAC honors last October, then was just recently named as an NJCAA Distinguished Academic All-American for posting an astounding 3.955 cumulative grade point average over his two years.

While Hernandez was the team’s most visible player during his freshman year, he was overshadowed just a bit last year by the one who literally ‘stole the show’ in the ACCAC in 2012, Erik Luzanilla.  To the average fan, the statistics on paper for the San Luis, Arizona native weren’t as gaudy as some of his contemporaries, but to all of the coaches in the conference, his dominance was everywhere.  That’s why he was not only voted by the coaches as the ACCAC Player of the Year and a 1st Team All-ACCAC & Region I selection last October, but was also named an NJCAA 1st Team All-American last December.  Luzanilla finished 4th on the Matadors with 7 goals (including the Matadors’ first goal of the season back in late August, as well as the gamewinner in the Matadors’ Region I Semifinals win-both against Chandler-Gilbert), 4th in points with 18, and tied for 7th in assists with 4.  However, Luzanilla’s command of the field, ability to direct traffic and guide his teammates throughout the entire field, and efficiency with and without the ball throughout the match showed that those stats were merely additions to the argument for his nomination.  The two now reunite as teammates to join a Pioneers’ soccer program that posted the first-ever 12-win season in its history.

Standing next to Luzanilla in midfield all season long last year was Bryan Orta, who supplied much of the aggressive play that the Matadors needed in the middle of the field in returning to the Region I Finals in 2012.  However, just like when he scored 3 goals for the Matadors during his freshman year, when the Matadors needed a timely offensive move last season, Orta was there, cashing in his lone goal of the season as the game-winner September 13th against Scottsdale, and pitching in with 3 assists.  The Cypress, California native heads to a UCR program that looks for him to help them build on the 10-win season they had in 2012.

The first time Orta takes the field as a Highlander for UCR’s first exhibition August 24th, he’ll stare across the field to see a familiar face of their opponent that night, Cal Baptist:  Bryan Portillo.  As a Matador in 2012, Portillo was the leader of the Matadors’ back line, protecting Hernandez in goal with his aggressive defending style.  The native of Santa Ana, California, was part of one of the stingiest defenses in the ACCAC, and was a part of back-to-back playoff squads while at AWC, which will serve him well at his next stop, since the Lancers just finished winning their second straight National Christian College Athletic Association title last December.

Moving from the back line to the front, it was a good bet to make that if there was a scoring opportunity for the Matadors in 2012, Mario Soto would be on the end of it.  Soto and fellow forwards Arturo Valle and Cisco Ramirez spent much of the season taking turns leading the team in points and goals scored.  Soto bounced back from a slow start to the season to net the gamewinner in three out of four matches in mid-September, and had four two-goal performances overall during his sophomore campaign (including scoring the Matadors’ final two goals of the regular season).  Soto wound up 2nd on the team in goals with 15, and his 32 points was 3rd-best on the squad.  He also had a pair of assists.  Like Orta & Portillo, the native of San Juan Capistrano, California is heading back to his home state, joining an Eagles’ program that reached the NAIA National Quarterfinals a year ago, winning 19 matches in the process.

While Soto joins the Concordia University system just one state over, Yuma native Donal Landrum will take the leap and head east to Nebraska.  Ever since graduating from Kofa High School in Yuma as one of the more decorated Yuma-area high school soccer stars ever, Landrum has been a force near the goal for the Matadors.  Landrum battled nagging injuries as a freshman, yet shook them off enough to put five goals between the pipes to go along with four assists.  While the Matadors had a much more balanced offensive attack during his sophomore year, Landrum didn’t miss a beat, finishing 5th on the team in points (17) and goals scored (6), and was 6th in assists (5).  Landrum looks to make an immediate impact for the Bulldogs in Nebraska, who enjoyed an 11-win season last year while reaching the Great Plains Athletic Conference Playoffs.

Finally, Portillo’s mates on the backline have also found four-year homes where they will have a chance to compete for starting jobs.  Like his Kofa & AWC teammate Landrum, Angel Figueroa will leave his native Yuma home for the first time to head to the Midwest.  Figueroa played in 9 games as a freshman, and impressed the coaching staff enough to earn a lot more minutes as a sophomore.  Figueroa made the most of his time, quietly assisting on 7 goals, placing him 5th on the team in the assist category.  Figueroa heads to a Swedes’ program that reached the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Quarterfinals a year ago.

Traveling to Iowa is no big deal for Jordan Burns, since he made headlines in his hometown of Bo’Ness, West Lothian in Scotland by heading across the ocean to play his freshman year at AWC in 2012.   Burns had to work his way up Kenny Dale’s depth chart while still learning the nuances of the American version of soccer.  Burns’ playing time increased as the season wore on, and he earned his lone assist of the season October 2nd by helping Cisco Ramirez score the gamewinner at Gateway.  Burns will now make the jump to the NAIA level for a Vikings’ program that just wrapped up the Midwest Collegiate Conference Championship last November.

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