With another winter ready to usher in another start to the high school girls’ soccer season, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy will once more look to fill the void left by a departing All-Area Player of the Year.
The Tologs will also begin a major renovation as it relates to the coaching ranks.
As Crescenta Valley looks to run its string of Pacific League titles to five in a row, it must do so without some graduated mainstays who were integral to the Falcons’ championship crowns.
Flintridge Prep boasts a steady stream of returning talent, but for a second straight season finds itself needing to replace its top scorer while looking to win a third Prep League crown in a row.
Glendale, Hoover, Holy Family and Glendale Adventist Academy are all hopeful of bettering their fates from the previous season.
No matter the team, there are myriad changes as the 2012-13 season kicks off.
Sacred Heart, which followed up a CIF Southern Section Division I and Mission League championship in 2011 with a second-place league mark and a first-round playoff loss, must move on with the losses of graduated seniors such as All-Area Player of the Year Breeana Koemans — who followed a two-year run of Tologs defender Natalie Zeenni winning the award — Katie Johnson and Tera Trujillo, among others. Of course Johnson and Trujillo were already gone all of last year with knee injuries, as much of the story for last season’s Tologs was trying to overcome injuries.
Now, this year’s Tologs welcome back senior midfielder Krista Meaglia, who was lost all of last year with a knee injury, as one of a great deal of experienced senior standouts.
“We have a seasoned defensive core and some fast, talented offensive players,” said first-year Tologs Coach Cesar Hidalgo, who previously coached at Crescenta Valley and assisted the Tologs last season. “We are not 18 deep as we have been in previous years, but if we can keep our best 16 healthy we will be fun to watch.”
Hidalgo’s arrival means the departure, of sorts, of longtime and hugely successful co-coaches Frank Pace and Kathy Desmond. Pace will stay on as the associate coach, while Desmond is the coach emeritus.
Along with plenty of experience on the sideline, Sacred Heart has eight seniors with starting experience, led by Meaglia, defender Sarah Teegarden and Kayla Mills, who could play forward, midfielder and defender.
“We saw the character of this team last year when we lost Katie Johnson, Tera Trujillo and Krista Meaglia for the season and then Jill Jacobs and Savannah Viola went down midway,” Pace said. “We got to transition our team last year. Kids like [Kendall] Sandoval, [Hailey] James, [Miranda] Saldivar and [Claire] Kostelnik stepped into starting roles and demonstrated just how deep this squad is. Now they are a year older and ready for the battles of Mission League.”
Teegarden, Sandoval and Kostelnik will key the backline, while sophomore standout Hannah Armendariz returns to provide a dynamic offensive punch along with Meaglia and Mills as the Tologs take on a Mission League that is always rigorous with rivals such as Harvard-Westlake and Chaminade.
Flintridge Prep will be in search of some offensive punch after losing leading goal scorer Arielle Baptiste, not to mention multi-season starters Connell Studenmund and Kate Lyon.
“We lost three big players last year,” said Rebels Coach Esteban Chavez, whose team won its third straight Prep League crown before getting bounced via penalty kicks in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs. “We have the core [coming back]. I have high expectations because we have eight returning starters. They’ve experienced success, so that’s the reason for the expectations.”
Leading the way is likely to be standout senior goalie Casey Cousineau, who will have an experienced backline in front of her that includes seniors Whitney Cohen, Chelsea Johnson, Jordan Hudson, who missed all of last year with an injury, and Abby Letts, who will also play in the midfield.
“Our strength has been that we defend well,” Chavez said.
Offensively, much of the load will rest upon the feet of senior Kaelin King, the team’s second-leading goal scorer a year ago, and the shoulders of Chavez, according to the coach.
“We can make something with what we have,” said Chavez, who expects Pasadena Poly and Mayfield to be strong contenders to take the Rebels from their Prep League perch. “We have to be creative with how we score.”
That’s likely a safe assumption as to the game plan for Crescenta Valley, which has won four straight Pacific League titles, but must recover from the graduations of Mallory Carcich and Dani Busta, who were anchors to a backline that was paramount in all four title runs, but were also skilled offensively.
“Obviously, the beginning of the year, everybody’s trying to find their place, but I think we’re finding our groove,” said Falcons Coach Jorden Schulz, whose team shared the league title with Arcadia last season before falling in the first round of the playoffs. “I think we’re in pretty good standing ... adapting to the new group. You always feel like you’re replacing people, but really you’re just readapting.”
Schulz said the trio of seniors Sierra Rhoads, Whitley Boller and Katie Callister will lead the way in terms of a transition in leadership, with all three possessing three previous seasons of at least partial varsity experience.
Boller and Callister will likely start in the midfield, with Rhoads and junior Sarah Warden returning to their roles of last season in which both split time up top and on the backline. Sophomore speedster Grace Keller could also be another offensive weapon, while junior Olivia Bird will return to her starting spot as a defender.
Schulz added that the key to the team will be getting everybody involved. If so, the goals of winning another league title — this time outright — and getting back to the playoffs should be attainable.
“We want [the title] for ourselves, we’re selfish,” said Schulz, who added getting past the first round of the playoffs, which the Falcons have failed to do each of the last two seasons, is another aspiration. “If we can learn to play like a team, the way soccer is meant to be played, we’ll be successful.”
Elsewhere in the Pacific League, Glendale Coach Victor Aquino’s bunch must deal with the departure of the Nitros’ top player, as all-league second-teamer Ashley Aquino graduated. But experience, particularly at the forward position, is now a strength, the coach said.
“Last year what we lacked was experience,” Aquino said. “This year I have basically the same team.”
It’s a team that will be highlighted by midfielders Aline Graham (junior) and Natalie Harmon (senior) and junior forward Cecile Le Duff.
Glendale took sixth in league with a 3-10-1 mark a season ago and was 4-13-3 overall, but Aquino thinks this season his team can make a move up.
“The team is looking really good,” he said. “We’re hoping to make one of the playoff spots this year.”
Rival Hoover has a new coach in Anastasious Metallinos, who is brand new to the high school coaching ranks, but not to the Tornadoes after playing for Hoover and then Glendale Community College.
For now, the biggest goal at hand is increasing roster size and building a struggling program that finished seventh in the Pacific League and went 4-12-1 overall last season.
“The turnout is low. I’m working with just barely enough girls to make it a team. We still need to increase the numbers,” said Metallinos, who was only hired a few months ago. “My goal at this point is to solidify the program by getting the interest up.
“As far as the record, I would love to go .500. That’s a realistic goal.”
Realistic because he’s happy with the skills shown so far by midfielders Jordan Miller (sophomore) and Talin Kojadabian (junior), who are supplemented by a senior core of forward Jessica Rivera, midfielder Ashley Flores and defender Jazmine Medina.
Second-year Holy Family Coach Gerardo Gonzalez’ team is coming off a winless campaign, thus his hopes are rather modest.
“I think we will be better this season,” said Gonzalez, whose top player is likely to be returning sophomore Ginnes Paladini, a second-team All-Horizon League selection last season. “I hope we can win at least one game this year.”
On the upswing already, though, is the numbers, as Gonzalez said he has a full lineup plus at least two substitutes after a season in which the team often played with less than 11 players on the field.
For Glendale Adventist Academy, in just its third season as a program, it will look to the tutelage of first-year coach Melvin Ramos, who looks for the team to improve upon a sixth-place finish in the seven-team Liberty League last season.
Senior goalkeeper Renee Morales and senior defender Brittany Duran are likely to play a big role, as Ramos anticipates defense being the key to success.
“My expectations will be to have a good defensive team and work our way out,” said Ramos, who will also look for big contributions from junior forward Susie Chamorro and junior midfielder Tatianna Chamorro. “Having a good defense creates a good offense. We have a group that can be good.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun