Glaring needs confront local girls' soccer teams
La Cañada, Flintridge Sacred Heart and Flintridge Prep are preparing to retool for a new season.
La CaÃ±ada defender Olivia Leyva, right, is one of a few key returners for the Spartans this season. (Tim Berger/File Photo)
However, all three also have some rather glaring holes to fill.
“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.”
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.”
La Cañada looks to have more returning standouts to lean on than the likes of Flintridge Sacred Heart and Flintridge Prep.
However, the Spartans also return a problem.
“We don’t have a goalie,” Spartans Coach Louie Bilowitz said.
Not having a player with any goaltending experience was also a problem last season when La Cañada finished third in the Rio Hondo League and fell in the wild-card round of the Southern Section Division VI playoffs. Bilowitz believes his team can match last year’s success, though.
“We still had a pretty good year last year and I think this keep will step up and do a good job,” he said.
The Spartans will also need to fill the vacancy left by Rio Hondo League Player of the Year Kara Lankey. Looking to do so will be the core trio of Megan Decker, Natalie Rigusa and Olivia Leyva.
Decker is a junior forward who had 17 goals and 19 assists in an All-Area and All-Rio Hondo League season last year.
Leyva is a senior defender who was also an all-league and All-Area pick a season ago and is arguably one of the school’s best athletes after earning All-CIF honors as a softball player last season, as well.
Ragusa is a junior midfielder who was an All-CIF selection as a freshman.
“Those are the girls that are gonna lead, but I expect other girls to step up,” said Bilowitz, whose team improved to 2-0 win a penalty-kick win against Maranatha.
As for league, Bilowitz believes San Marino will be the favorite, but South Pasadena and an emmerging Temple City will also be contenders.
“Those will be terrific teams,” he said of San Marino and South Pas, “but I also hear Temple City has some talented players. I think it will be a four-way race.”