Girls Soccer Preview: Bishop Amat is young, talented and No. 1; Walnut, Glendora, Los Altos, South Hills round out top five

Above: Bishop Amat soccer players Jasmine Roth (13) , Alyssa Cabral (5) and April Juarez (10) .

By Fred J. Robledo
Staff Writer

For years Walnut High School has set the bar for girls soccer, although South Hills has continued to chip away in hopes of finally wrestling away the San Antonio League championship from the stingy Mustangs who have won or shared every league title this decade. Glendora and St. Lucy’s compete in the Sierra League, the area’s toughest from top to bottom, with the Regents winning the league title last season and the Tartans finishing third to make the CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs. San Dimas continues to dominate the Valle Vista League and Los Altos’ youth did not stop it from winning the Miramonte League.
But as the 2009-10 girls soccer season gets under way this week, the surprise team of last season is this year’s top team out of the gate – Bishop Amat. To continue reading the rest of the top ten, click thread

Lancers coach Ruben Gonzalez has breathed life into a program never known for its girls soccer. It led to an 18-3-4 record, a second-place finish in the Del Rey League and a second-round appearance in the Division IV playoffs before losing in penalty kicks to Santa Ynez.

With six all-leaguers returning, including Arizona State-bound senior defender Jasmine Roth, something special is brewing.

Defender Alyssa Cabral and midfielder/forward April Juarez made first-team all league as freshmen and are back with sophomore midfielder Miranda Joya, who earned second-team all-league honors as a freshman.

Junior midfielder Chelsea Villegas and senior defender Ashley Goodwin return after earning second-team honors and there are two talented freshmen midfielders in Natalie Rivas and Yazmin Montoya.

“We realize the potential we have and our attitude has changed,” Gonzalez said. “We expect to win every game now. If we don’t it’s a disappointment.

“When we talk about expectations, the girls see the banners in the gym and realize it’s all about championships. That’s what we’re playing for.”

2. Walnut (16-5-2)

If there is concern the glory days are over after the Mustangs were eliminated in the first round of the Division II playoffs, it’s simply not true.

The defending San Antonio League champions are well-equipped with five all-league starters returning despite losing Marissa Woods and Krissy Slusser to graduation.

First-team senior midfielder Megan Leu is back after scoring five goals with three assists, along with another first-teamer Alex Interiano, who had four goals and three assists.

Defensive gem Nikki McKee is a returning first-team junior along with senior midfield/defender Ashley Caligiuri, the daughter of U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Paul Caligiuri.

With sophomore Ari Anaya adding to their defensive strength and freshman newcomers Kayla Mills and Katelyn Oshima (goalkeeper), the Mustangs are well on their way to erasing the sour taste of last year’s quick postseason exit.

3. Glendora (15-9-3)

The Tartans lost Sierra League first-team performers Aissa Sanchez and Emily Wood, but they have seven starters back and plenty of strength on the back line, which always is a good place to start.

Sophomore Brianna Rice and junior Brittany Hernandez are capable goalkeepers, and starting defenders Maddy Ealba and Amanda Jessie return along with Austin Beck, a senior returning from injury. Add Jessica Smetherman, one of the league’s best defenders, and it’s no wonder coach Shane Bangle is pleased.

“We have the potential to do really well,” Bangle said. “The (Sierra) league was close last year, we lost a lot of close games and have a close-knit team coming back.”

In the midfield, Mayra Cabrera is back along with Tiffany Dimaculangan and sophomore Aly Wilson. With sophomore Amie Jepsen up front, there is no reason to believe the Tartans won’t battle for the league title.

4. Los Altos (17-7-2)

After the Conquerors’ girls volleyball team won a CIF-SS division title, members of the girls soccer team told coach Chris Reeder they want to get a CIF championship, too.

“That just meant I have the green light to push them,” Reeder said. “With eight starters back and three all-Valley players, if they’re willing to put in the work who knows?”

The defending Miramonte League champions lost in the second round of the Division IV playoffs to Cathedral City on penalty kicks, but they welcome back junior league MVP Laurin Stupin, who had 11 goals and 13 assists as a sophomore.

Ashley Richardson, a first-team all-league performer as a sophomore, missed her junior season because of injuries, but she’s back along with junior forward Tara Cofer and sophomore Malaysia Avery, who both earned second-team all-league honors.

5. South Hills (14-8-3)

With size, speed and toughness, the Huskies return perhaps the area’s best striker in senior Natalie Maxey, who is headed to UC Santa Barbara in the fall on a soccer scholarship.

Maxey led the area with 26 goals and also had eight assists as the Huskies advanced to the second round of the Division II playoffs, where they lost to Crescenta Valley in penalty kicks.

Returning along with Maxey is first-team forward Mayra Almazan, who had 16 goals and eight assists in providing the Huskies a dominant one-two punch up top.

Junior midfielder/defender Arianna Vaughn also is back after earning second-team honors, but the Huskies need to improve defensively in order to take the next step.

“That’s the problem,” South Hills coach Scott Mocabee said. “I’ve got one returning defender and will probably move (Vaughn) back there to solidify it (defense).

“But (Maxey) looks great, the girls are competing and I’m excited. We’re hoping for a big year.”

6. St. Lucy’s (15-3-4)

The Regents won the difficult Sierra League behind Tribune Player of the Year Lynsey Browne and freshman sensation Victoria Camaj, who was named the league’s offensive player of the year.

Browne, however, graduated and the left-footed Camaj tore her anterior cruciate ligament two months ago and is out for the season for first-year coach Andy Placentia.

But the Regents have depth, led by senior midfield captain Michelle Bella and sturdy defenders Daniella Perez and Julia Dorosh.

“If those three have big years and the rest of our seniors contribute, we will be fine,” Placentia said.

There also are two freshmen to watch in striker Samantha James and midfielder Kennedy Lanier.

7. San Dimas (17-4-4)

The back-to-back Valle Vista League champions advanced to the second round of the Division VI playoffs. They lost league MVP Ariel Shore, but they return four all-league performers, including one of the best freshmen from last year in midfielder Jeanette Jimenez, who had 19 goals and 13 assists.

Also returning is first-team junior Shannon Mckee, second-team forward Brooke Lambert and junior goalkeeper Rachel Jones.

8. Charter Oak (14-8-5)

In the competitive Miramonte League, the Chargers finished fourth and missed the playoffs, but they figure to give Los Altos the biggest fight for the league title.

After all, they have senior striker McKenna Gooden back after scoring 17 goals, along with their other first-team scorer in junior Alyssa Caputo, who finished with 17 goals and seven assists.

With second-team midfield sophomore Carly Lake back along with senior defender Michell Boggio, the Chargers could have a big season.

9. Bonita (11-12-2)

The Bearcats came on strong toward the end of the season to make the playoffs and return a pair of all-league first-teamers in senior forward Lissa Pina and senior defender Sara Rose Connell.

With second-team midfielder Angelica Padilla and second-team defender Kelsie Mellor back, they should be competing for another playoff spot.

10. Diamond Ranch (15-7-3)

With the Panthers rounding out the top 10, it gives the Miramonte League four legitimate contenders.

The Panthers welcome back first-team forward India Plesant, along with three second-team starters in senior forward Nicole Huyler, junior midfielder Sophia Hernandez and junior goalkeeper Amanda Robles.
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