Robert Husseman, The Triplicate

Del Norte soccer takes on Illinois Valley in openers

Classes at Del Norte High School start today, but Warriors soccer coaches Clar Byers and David Sanyaolu have been instructing their players for the past few weeks.

Today, Illinois Valley High of Cave Junction comes to town for a pair of non-league soccer games.

Tomorrow, McKinleyville arrives for Del Norte's first league matches of the season. (The girls matches begin at 3:30 p.m. both days; the boys matches will follow upon conclusion.)

The test begins now.

"I'm not ready for it," Clar Byers said with a laugh. "I can't believe it's already here."

Byers, coach of the Warriors girls, has instilled basic lessons into his young team. Del Norte has two returning seniors - five total - out of 22 players on the 2012 roster. And after a 1-14-2 campaign in 2011, fundamental instruction will be necessary even as the season goes on.

That said, a young Warriors team is showing signs of coming together.

"There's an enthusiasm to play," Byers said. "They stick here after hours."

Seniors Fernanda Herrera and Wendy Morales will be key cogs in the Del Norte machine, and Byers has been impressed with the play and attitudes of juniors Christina Levy, Deleana Saylor and Hailey Hulse.

"They have speed, they have ability, they have skills," Byers said.

"(I'm) looking to see hopefully a more balanced team this year, meaning usually we end up in a defensive mode all the time, fighting them off and keeping them out. I see opportunities where we can turn around and counter with an attack."

Sanyaolu's boys soccer team enters the 2012 season with experience in the form of 10 seniors on a 25-player roster.

Del Norte returns a 2011 White Star player in senior Juan Chavez. Seniors Jesus Herrera, Jose Ramirez and Brandon Bloyd have also distinguished themselves with their efforts in practice.

"This is a team that has a lot of promise," Sanyaolu said. "I'm hoping that things will gel for us this year, that the team will play in unison. I'm hoping that we show how good of soccer we can play."

The Warriors finished 2011 with a 4-6-3 record and have eyes on big prizes this season.

"A league title and a playoff spot is the goal," Sanyaolu said.

Arcata, Eureka and Fortuna - the unofficial Big 3 in the Humboldt-Del Norte League - stand in Del Norte's way.

"We don't have a good history (against those teams)," Sanyaolu admitted. "We are hoping we can compete with them (and) get wins. It would be a combination of all efforts."

The Warriors will travel to Eureka next week for a better gauge of how they stand up in the league. Of course, skipping ahead mentally to challenges later on in the schedule is a poor form of test-taking.

Reach Robert Husseman