AZUSA, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team bolstered its roster with eight additions for the upcoming 2014 season. The Cougars, who finished in a tie with Pacific West Conference champion Fresno Pacific in the 2013 standings, drew commitments from five high school student-athletes and one transfer, with Caleb Candeleria and Zach McCollum rounding out the Azusa Pacific newcomers.
“Overall it’s a group that has a lot of quality, both for next year and the future. I’m really excited about what each of them are going to bring. We have some experienced recruits, and then we have some young players. I expect them to compete to make an impact. They all have bright futures and have the ability to grow over the next few years,” said head coach Dave Blomquist.
The Cougars posted a 15-5 record in 2013, which included a 10-2 clip in PacWest play, before falling to Fresno Pacific in the NCCAA West Region final. Azusa Pacific lost eight players from its 2013 roster, including six starters.
DEVON ALVAREZ: Midfielder | Gold River, Calif., Capital Christian HS
One of two Capital Christian High School commits for the 2014 class, Alvarez looks to extend his successful career into the college ranks. The Golden Empire League MVP helped his team to three consecutive CIF San Joaquin Section titles, while earning All-City honors. Alvarez played club soccer for Cap FC United.
Blomquist -- “Devon’s an intelligent player with great drive and work ethic. The times I’ve seen him play his determination to win stood out and was outstanding. His future is really bright and we’re happy to see what he can do over the next few years.”
KALEB ARMBRUST: Forward/Midfielder | Gold River, Calif., Capital Christian HS
The younger brother of Azusa Pacific junior forward Keenan Armbrust, Kaleb gives the Cougars another scoring threat up front. Kaleb helped Capital Christian to a No. 14 national ranking after guiding the team to a fourth place finish in the state tournament. Kaleb received All-Northern California State, All-City, and All-League honors during his prep career, and was an Academic All-League recipient.
Blomquist -- “Kaleb’s similar to his brother in that he’s an attacking player. He has good size and pace. And while he’s similar to Keenan, he has some different attributes that will complement his playing style. He has a good nose for the goal and we expect him to come in and compete from the beginning.”
AUSTIN CALL: Goalkeeper | Elk Grove, Calif., Cosumnes HS
With the departure of two keepers from the 2013 season, Call will have the opportunity to compete for early playing time. The Cosumnes High School captain was an All-Sierra Valley Conference honoree, and helped his team to the 2014 CIF San Joaquin Section Division II championship in an undefeated season. He allowed 11 goals as a senior, and played club soccer for Elk Grove United Everton 96.
Blomquist -- “Austin had a great career and may have to be relied upon as a freshman. He’s a leader on and off the field and has shown a knack for making big saves and helping his team to big wins. He’ll immediately add to the quality and depth at goalkeeper.”
CALEB CANDALERIA: Midfielder | Newport Beach, Calif., Orange Coast College
After one season at OCC, where he started 16 times, Candeleria is set to play his first season at Azusa Pacific. The former All-Sunset League product out of Newport Harbor High School gives the Cougars a do-it-all midfielder that should make a mark in his first year with the program.
Blomquist -- “Caleb is a versatile player. Most likely he’ll play in the centerrmid, but can play other spots. He has great physical attributes and he combines great technical ability with that. He could be one of our top four players next season, and I anticipate a big year from him.”
ZACH MCCOLLUM: Defender | Vacaville, Calif., Will. C Wood, HS
A three-time all-Monticello Empire League honoree, McCollum joins an Azusa Pacific backline that had two all-PacWest performers in 2012. McCollum helped his club team, Davis Arsenal, to the 2012 U-19 NorCal State Cup Final, while guiding the Wildcats to the playoffs in 2011.
Blomquist -- “Zach’s a great defender and a great addition to our side. In a conference where you have to defend to be successful he helps add talent and depth. One of the reasons we were successful last year is because all of our defenders performed. Zach has that mindset and I look forward to seeing him in the fall.”
OMAR NUNEZ: Midfielder | Azusa, Calif., Citrus College
Before playing at Citrus College, Omar was an All-Montview performer at Azusa High School while captaining the Aztecs as a senior. Nunez later became an All-Western State Conference player for the Owls in 2012.
Blomquist -- “Omar is an attacking midfielder. He’s creative and another one that’s very good with the ball at his feet, both on the dribble and with his passing. I look forward to seeing him this fall and I expect him to step right in and add to both our quality and depth.”
COLLIN PARKER: Defender | Lake Forest, Calif., Cal State East Bay
After playing his freshman season at Cal State East Bay in 2011, Parker joins the Cougar ranks looking to make an immediate impact. The defender started six times in eight appearances with the Pioneers before an injury ended his rookie campaign. In his second career start he helped the Pioneers to a shutout win over PacWest foe Dominican.
Blomquist -- “He’s a solid defender and a really smart player. He’s a left-footed left back, which is a great asset. He’s a smart and mature player who understands the game very well and I look forward to seeing what he adds to our backline.”
CESAR SANTOS: Midfielder | Glendora, Calif., Glendora HS
After leading Glendora High School in goals as a freshman, Cesar focused his attention on the club scene. He played club soccer for Arsenal FC Academy, and was a member of the U-15 U.S. National Team before earning a spot on the U-17 El Salvador National Team. He helped Arsenal qualify for the Manchester United World Finals, Dallas Cup appearance, and Surf Cup finals along with a Celtic Cup championship.
Blomquist -- “Cesar’s a great addition. He’s one of the most instinctual players in his passing, especially for a player as young as him. He makes the right decision with the ball 9 out of 10 times, and he should fit right in with us from the get go.”