Menlo College soccer has created a sense of community

Oaks' roster full of players from area high schools, junior colleges

By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

Gunn High grad Sam Zipperstein recruited himself to Menlo College to play men's soccer and second-year coach Mike Keller couldn't be happier.

"To be honest I didn't know anything about him," Keller said Monday., two days after Zipperstein scored a goal and recorded an assist in the Oaks' 2-1 victory over visiting Simpson in the Cal Pac Conference opener for both teams. "He was getting himself to Menlo while I was getting the job. Once I talked to him, it didn't take long to know he would be good."

The Oaks (1-0, 3-3-1) play at William Jessup in Rocklin on Tuesday.

"It felt pretty good," Zipperstein told the schools' athletic web site on his three point day. "As a senior I want to lead by example, but more importantly I'm glad we got that first conference win."

Zipperstein, a senior midfielder for the Oaks and a first team all-Cal Pac pick last year, is part of a movement toward recruiting local players. He's one of 12 players on the active roster who call the Bay Area home.

"Menlo athletics is on the move upward in a big way," said Keller, who played and coached at Canada College before coming to Menlo. "The athletic director (Keith Spataro) has put up a vision for us that one, kid's have a good experience at Menlo, and, two, that we are as competitive athletically as we can be. I see that happening. Football is 4-0, basketball won the conference title last year, the baseball team had a great year and both soccer teams are on the rise."

Keller, who has one leftover from a team that went 7-11 the year before he took over, has his team pointed in the right direction and Zipperstein is an example.

"He's an outstanding player who does great work in the midfield," Keller said. "He can score big-time goals and will always come to play in big matches. He's one of our main cogs."

Sacred Heart Prep product Alex Vukic is another example of local talent. He was the Oaks' leading scorer last year. He's currently resting a wrist injury.

"We look forward to getting him back on the field," Keller said. "He scores goals."

Menlo-Atherton grad Enrique Ortiz, an honorable mention All-PAL Bay Division last year, has also contributed to Menlo's success.

The Oaks also have an international flavor to their roster, with players from Ivory Coast (Pierre Ako), Cameron (Alban Kalasa), Brazil (Matheus Barbosa), England (Robbie Rix), Italy (Lorenzo Lato), Venezuela (Guisseppe Frattaroli) and Guatemala (Jose Castaneda and Ricardo Urruela).

"Menlo has a great reputation as a business school all over the world," Keller said. "As a consequence we some international guys like that who are a great mix."

A majority of the students at Menlo are also athletes and will support each other, creating an atmosphere of fellowship.

"I heard one kid say that he might meet 600 kids at another school but it would be superficial," Keller said. "At Menlo, he said, you know everybody and they all become good friends who support each other. I thought that said it all."

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