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Hot Hawks Set for Branson Battle

Undefeated in MCAL play, Tam's boys soccer team is loaded with talent and learning how to share the spotlight.

When Dustin Nygaard took over the boys soccer team in 2007, he inherited some solid players but few lethal goal scorers capable of a barrage of scoring strikes.

Four years later, he’s got the opposite problem – if you could call it a problem.

The Red-tailed Hawks are 7-0 in Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) play heading into today’s game against also unbeaten (in MCAL) Branson at College of Marin at 5 p.m. In those seven games, the Hawks have racked up a whopping 25 goals and given up just three.

It’s a far cry from Nygaard’s first two years, when Tam went through a few scoreless weeks, let alone games.

The difference? Quite simply, the Hawks are loaded.

“In the past we’ve only had a couple of goal scorers and we’ve been a defensive-oriented, blue collar team, and now we’re trying take a page out of the Barcelona book,” Nygaard said.

But tons of talent can be a problem unto itself – just ask the Miami Heat. Nygaard has been in his players’ ears about how crucial it is to put team and wins first, with stats a distant second.

“Sometimes it can be a challenge when you have a lot of talented players on one team," he said. "For us, it’s about putting our pride and egos aside to be the best team we can be. We’ve made a lot of progress on that. The team is the star.”

The  lost several key players from last year’s squad but brought back a number of those potent scorers it once lacked. From juniors Julien Melendez and Tesfaye Paine, both all-MCAL performers last season, to seniors Ludo Nengo, Imran Nana and Minho Kang, goals have come in bunches this season, with Paine and Kang scoring two apiece in Tam’s 5-0 win over San Rafael Tuesday.

The Hawks have also benefited from an infusion of new talent, particularly Gabriel Cavalcante, a senior transfer from Sao Paolo, Brazil. Nygaard called Calvacante an “exceptional player.”

The result has been an 11-3 overall start, including well-played losses to two of the top high school soccer teams in the country, Granite Bay High School in Placer County and Jesuit High School in Carmichael, California.

Nygaard credits the development of Mill Valley youth soccer programs and Marin FC, for which a number of Hawks have played for the past several seasons. Kelly Coffey, one of Marin FC’s coaches, agreed.

“They reap the benefits of their players working with us almost year-round, and they have some excellent young players,” Coffey said.

Nygaard said Tam has been able to develop young players attracted to Mill Valley by Tam’s gleaming, renovated campus, its proximity to San Francisco and the diversity that comes with having strong English language programs.

“It’s just a gem of any public school in Northern California and you combine that with us being more successful on the field, it’s all good,” Nygaard said.

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