Over the last four seasons, the local girls’ soccer landscape has seen its share of league titles and playoff runs when it comes to Crescenta Valley, Flintridge Prep and, most notably, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy.
However, as the 2013-14 season has kicked off, those perennial powers are all dealing with major overhauls due to the loss of some talented mainstays.
Likely the biggest contender out of the three to remain atop its league is Crescenta Valley, as it boasts the most returns and, arguably, the most favorable league competition. Flintridge Prep and Flintridge Sacred Heart, after all, share leagues with defending CIF Southern California Division III Regional champion Pasadena Poly and Southern Section Division I titlist Chaminade, respectively.
“Super rebuilding year,” Flintridge Prep Coach Esteban Chavez said.
Said Flintridge Sacred Heart Coach Cesar Hidalgo: “Being a young team this year, calling it a rebuilding year wouldn’t be too far off.”
With the graduation of standouts Sarah Teegarden and Kayla Mills, Flintridge Sacred Heart begins this season without any remaining starters from the historic 2010-11 team that won a CIF Southern Section Division I title. In addition, Hanna Armendariz, who was likely to be the team’s most impressive offensive threat, transferred before her junior season, and Laura Thompson, who scored eight goals last year, elected to concentrate on academics and skip her senior season.
Of the 48 goals scored by the Tologs last season, only four were scored by players that will return.
Senior midfielder Casey Basso, who had three goals and an assist, is likely to shoulder the biggest portion of the offensive load.
“She will be the go-to player, the one either assisting or scoring goals,” said Hidalgo, whose team opened with a 4-0 win over Monrovia on Tuesday. “There is a lot of things that we have to do to see where all of these pieces are going to fit.”
Joining Basso in forming the core of the team should be sophomore defender/midfielder Lauren Savo and senior defender Sarah Vail. Along with them, senior goalie Dani Garcia, an All-Area pick a year ago, will return, though likely later in the season after undergoing offseason surgery.
Coupled with the uncertainty of having 13 underclassmen on an 18-player roster, Hidalgo and his Tologs must also deal with the rigors of the Mission League, which boasts defending league champion Harvard-Westlake, as well as defending Division I champion Chaminade.
“I think it’s going to be just as tough,” said Hidalgo, whose Tologs took second in league a year ago and were upset in the first round of the Southern Section Division I playoffs. “We’re going to be taking on this league a game at a time. The goal this season is to get in the top three and get into CIF [playoffs]. It’s gonna be tough.”
In the Pacific League, returning two-time champion Arcadia looks to be the favorite.
That certainly won’t prevent Crescenta Valley and Falcons Coach Jorden Schulz from vying for the top spot, one they lost last season after four straight years of winning at least a share of the league title.
“I hope our girls are as upset as I am that we didn’t win league last year,” Schulz said.
No matter how inspired the Falcons are, though, that won’t nullify the loss of Sierra Rhoads, the team’s leading scorer, and Whitley Boller and Katie Callister, who were towering and physical presences in the midfield.
“We lost a lot of size — like all of it,” said Schulz, whose team took second in the Pacific League before advancing to the second round of the Southern Section Division III playoffs. “We’re gonna have to make up for it with our speed.”
Speed is plentiful when it comes to returners Sarah Worden, a senior defender who also played forward last season, and junior forward/defender Grace Keller.
Other top returners will be senior defender Olivia Bird, her sister, sophomore forward Rachel Bird, and senior forward Ani Hemelianas.
“I think every year your approach has to change a little bit,” said Schulz, whose team opened up the season Tuesday with a 1-0 loss at Pasadena Poly, which eliminated the Falcons in last year’s playoffs. “We’re gonna be really young. I think there’s gonna be a lot of enthusiasm, as well as learning.”
Flintridge Prep’s aspirations to remain at or around the top of the Prep League could be difficult, as Chavez believes defending champion Pasadena Poly, along with Chadwick and Mayfield should all be improved, while the Rebels lost eight starters.
“It’s gonna be tough,” said Chavez, who will have 12 freshmen on varsity with six or seven likely to start.
At the core will be senior defender Chelsea Johnson, senior midfielder Kaitlyn Liston and sophomore forward Katherine Pinney, who had 10 goals last season.
“Those are the three returners that are key,” said Chavez, whose team advanced to the Southern Section Division III second round last season after a second-place finish in the Prep League.
Chavez is hopeful that within the rest of his ranks he’ll be able to see his younger players improve as the season goes. The ultimate goal is developing a program that has a rich class, much like the one that has moved on and was a driving force in the past few seasons of Prep League titles and playoff ascents.
“I have faith that the girls are gonna get better and better as the year goes on,” said Chavez, whose Rebels are 0-0-2 on the young season. “That’s my hope is that these freshman, sophomore classes will be what we graduated last year.”
With a more experienced group and perhaps a Pacific League in which many teams are not predicted to have the level of talent as last season, Glendale Coach Victor Aquino believes the combination could aid the Nitros in finishing in the top four and getting into the playoffs.
“Same goal as every year, make the playoffs,” Aquino said. “The team looks better than it has in previous years.
“Hopefully this year we’ll do better than the last few years.”
Glendale, which opened the season already and is 1-0, is likely to be led by returning senior midfielder Aline Graham, along with senior forward Matilda Hovsepian.
At Hoover, AC Metallinos is back for his second season with the Tornadoes and has realistic optimism for the campaign ahead.
“I’m very optimistic about this team,” said Metallinos, who expects his team to be led by the exploits of All-Pacific League second-teamer Talin Kojababian, a senior forward, and league honorable mention Tyra Williams, a senior defender. “We have an unbelievable incoming class. I think we’re definitely moving toward the right direction in terms of turning the program around.”
One of those incoming players is freshman forward Remi Miller, who Metallinos expects good things from, along with Remi’s older sister, Jordan, a junior who will play in the midfield and up top. Senior goalie Arianna Solis also looks to be a key component for Hoover.
Last season, Hoover picked up three wins in the Pacific League, sweeping winless Muir and splitting with archrival Glendale. Metallinos is hoping to improve on that.
“The next challenge is beating Glendale twice and I want to steal some points from some of the other teams in league,” said Metallinos, who said he had 18-19 players expected to play, which is larger than past seasons, and has a full 20-game season, as opposed to prior years in which the Tornadoes’ nonleague schedule was rather bare. “In a perfect world, we’d finish .500 and get top four in league.”
Following a winless season, Holy Family welcomes new Coach Burt Ogata, who is a 12-year high school coaching veteran, most recently finishing a stint at Sotomayor.
While Ogata is the latest in an ever changing line of Gaels coaches, he said he’s at Holy Family for the long haul.
“My goal is building for now and the future,” Ogata said.
Leading the 15-player squad that features seven juniors will be senior forward Nichole Gutierrez.
Unfortunately for the Gaels, another stronger returner was supposed to be junior Ginnes Paladini, but she recently decided not to return to the team. However, Ogata is excited about the prospects of junior defender Justine West, sophomore goalie Emily Palantia and junior goalie/midfielder Jackie Varela.
“As long as they give 100%, that’s all a coach can ask,” Ogata said. “But with five teams in the league, I think the team can take second or third.
“There is a lot of talent.”
Lastly, Glendale Adventist Academy will look to improve on its 2-6-1 record and sixth-place showing in the Liberty League.