By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
LA PUENTE – About the only thing scarier than the Bishop Amat High School girls soccer team’s 24-0-1 record and 106-5 goals differential is that the Lancers’ leading scorer is just a sophomore, and the next top two scorers are freshmen.
April Juarez, already a standout with the prestigious Irvine Strikers club soccer team, is the super sophomore that’s part of a new breed of Lancers who have quickly become one of the best teams in the CIF-Southern Section under third-year coach Ruben Gonzales.
Gonzales, also the women’s coach at Cerritos College, arrived at Bishop Amat with a background that included back-to-back community college state championships in 2007 and ’08, including a mythical national title during the ’08 season.
Before Gonzales arrived, the Lancers finished 8-11-2 in 2006 but have steadily improved each season, going 11-7-8 in 2007, 18-3-4 in 2008, and now the undefeated season that shows no signs it’s going to end.
The Lancers are No. 1 in Division 4 and can complete an undefeated regular season with a victory over La Salle (12-5-5) this afternoon at home at 3:30.
“I thought we were a year away from this type of season,” Gonzales said. “When you start winning it gives you credibility. I think the freshmen and sophomores we have now understood that when they came here.”
Juarez, however, has become the emerging standout of the bunch. She leads the Lancers with 32 goals and 22 assists and has scored two or more goals in 12 games.
But she recognizes there is more to the Lancers than just her finishing and set-up skills.
“I can’t take all the credit,” Juarez said. “I work really hard to be the best player I can, but all of us play a part.”
The freshman duo of Yazmin Montoya and Natalie Rivas have a combined 32 goals and 32 assists, and Arizona-bound senior sweeper Jasmine Roth leads a defense that has produced 21 shutouts.
“Jasmine was a midfielder when she started here and plays right back with her club team,” Gonzales said. “To be able to put such a talented player at sweeper for us is ideal. She’s so skilled. You know, even though we’ve allowed five goals, one was an own-goal and another was a call the ref screwed up.”
Juarez is the key to everything. Not only is she a great finisher, she’s unselfish, almost to a fault.
“I think she can take on more,” Gonzales said. “There have been times when she’s all alone in front of the goal and passes the ball off. She just thinks that way, team first. But when you can finish like she can, sometimes you just got to take it when it’s there.”
Juarez already is getting letters from several colleges, with UCLA at the top of her wish list.
She also stirs things up in her household because she’s a Club America fan even though her Guadalajara-born father is a die-hard Chivas fan.
That’s sort of like living in Los Angeles and rooting for the Celtics.
But she knows another way to his soccer heart, and that would be to someday play for the Mexican national team in the Women’s World Cup.
Gonzales could be the key to making that happen. He also happens to be close friends with Mexican national team coach Leonardo Cuellar, and said Juarez has the goods to get there someday.
“Right now they’re (Mexico) identifying future players, and she’s one of them,” Gonzales said. “She has a knack for the game, a love for the game, and is always thinking ahead of everyone. She’s also deceptive, you think she’s not that fast, but she will go by you in a second.”