A day of celebration for the La Cañada High softball team was also mixed with disbelief and disappointment.
While Spartans shortstop Olivia Leyva merited her second consecutive CIF Southern Section Division IV first-team selection, no other Spartan from the quarterfinalist squad earned similar recognition as the CIF-SS office and the LA84 foundation released its list Monday afternoon.
For the multi-talented Leyva, the All-CIF honor is the second she received this year after earning CIF-SS Division V acclaim as a defender on the Spartans soccer team.
“It means a lot and it’s such an honor to receive it, especially since I received one in soccer,” Leyva said of the All-CIF nod. “It’s been a good all-around year for me, but I really love this award because it proves you don’t have to play travel ball to be successful. I haven’t played a day in my life and just worked hard. If you just work hard, you can succeed.”
Leyva, the Rio Hondo League co-Most Valuable Player, slammed her way onto the list by batting a team-best .533 during the regular season with six homers, eight doubles and five triples. Leyva, who’s headed to California Lutheran in the fall, collected 32 hits, scored 28 runs and drove in 27.
“Olivia Leyva is a senior and deserves to be there for a second year in a row,” Spartans Coach KC Mathews said. “She’s a tremendous player and she had the kind of year that a player needs to have to be All-CIF.”
Leyva helped power the Spartans to a comeback 2014 season a year after La Cañada altogether missed the playoffs in 2013.
La Cañada finished runner-up in the Rio Hondo League and posted a 17-10 overall record, while advancing to the postseason.
La Cañada saved a little punch for the playoffs, picking up two victories, which included an upset of top-seeded Loara, 4-1, in the second round. The Spartans eventually fell, 8-7, in the quarterfinals at La Quinta.
“It felt really good to do well this year,” Leyva said. “That was one of our goals, to get back to the playoffs.
“That meant we were going to have to work a little bit harder and focus a little bit more on what we wanted to accomplish.”
While Mathews was proud to sing Leyva’s praises, he also strongly felt that his team deserved one more representative.
“You’re only allowed to nominate two players and the CIF only picks two players,” Mathews said. “That’s good because you don’t want one team to dominate the list, but that also leaves the chance that a very good player could be left off.”
Mathews felt that junior catcher Olivia Lam, a Rio Hondo League first-teamer, was snubbed.
Lam, who verbally committed to Cornell University of the Ivy League, racked up a team-leading 35 hits, while contributing 39 RBI, seven homers and nine doubles during the regular season while batting .500 and scoring 22 runs.
“It’s disappointing that Olivia Lam isn’t on the team because she deserves to be there,” Mathews said. “Her stats are great and she’s a great defender. She had two passed balls all year. There’s no other catcher that I’d rather have and I can’t believe she didn’t make it.”
Leyva was joined on the divisional list by Monrovia’s Elise McCarthy (both shared the Rio Hondo League co-MVP) and by San Marino catcher Caitlyn Callahan (.470 average, 31 hits, four homers, four doubles, 24 RBI and 23 runs).
“Sometimes these selections go in your favor and sometimes they don’t,” Mathews said. “Look at last year. We didn’t make the playoffs, but [Leyva] was still picked. It just seems like we should have had Olivia Lam on this year, too.”
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.