Top Five Coaches of 2016-17: Roffina, Riehl lead Flintridge Prep to unparalleled heights

The top five high school coaches from the 2016-17 season were voted on by the Glendale News-Press sports department.

1 Mike Roffina and Jill Riehl, Flintridge Prep girls’ cross-country – There was perhaps no better sendoff in the final of 19 years for Roffina, who now leaves Riehl to solely run the team.

The twosome led Flintridge Prep to its greatest season in program history in 2016.

The Rebels captured a rare triple crown - the Prep League, CIF Southern Section and CIF State championships - for the second time over the last three seasons.

“What we accomplished this year was absolutely incredible,” Roffina said. “It's something I’ll cherish and I think this program will have success for years to come.”

Perhaps the best battle and most rewarding finish took place early in the postseason as the Rebels took on defending Prep League champion Mayfield Senior School in the league finals at Pierce College on Oct. 29.

Flintridge Prep avenged a defeat the previous season with a 19-36 victory over the archrival Cubs as Rebels sophomore Sasha Codiga captured the individual league crown.

The triumph over Division IV Mayfield proved the only real challenge for the Rebels, who on Nov. 19 captured their third straight CIF Southern Section Division V title via a 31-127 walloping of Pacifica Christian at Riverside City Cross-Country Course.

This time it was University of Oklahoma-bound senior Natalie O’Brien who led the way by finishing second as four Rebels crossed through the top 10.

The pièce de résistance came in the final effort of the season for Flintridge Prep at the CIF State Division V finals on Nov. 26 at Fresno’s Woodward Park.

There, the Rebels etched their name into the history book by blasting Francis Parker, 51-170, which was the largest margin of victory in girls’ state cross-country history.

This time, junior Sophie Gitlin led the way, taking 10th for a Rebels squad that’s team time of 95 minutes, 16 seconds set a Division V record.

Riehl and Roffina were voted All-Area Girls’ Cross-Country co-Coaches of the Year.

2 Esteban Chavez, Flintridge Prep girls’ soccer – Despite some unpredicted roster changes before the season, the Rebels enjoyed their most successful season in team history, finishing 23-5-3 and 8-1-1 in the Prep League for first place. Flintridge Prep won its first outright league crown since 2012.

Behind gifted players, such as sophomore forward Helen Schaefer, the 2017 All-Area Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year, junior midfielder Julia Gonzalez, the 2016 All-Area Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year, and junior goalkeeper Lindsey Uteda, the Rebels continued their surge in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs.

Flintridge Prep posted shutout victories against Paramount, San Marcos and Oak Hills. Flintridge Prep then suffered a 5-2 semifinal loss to top-seeded South Torrance, which won the championship.

The Rebels’ season didn’t stop there.

Flintridge Prep made its first appearance in the Southern California Regional Division III playoffs and fared well. The Rebels traveled nearly to Fresno and came away with a 2-1 win against Mission Oak.

The milestone victory gave Flintridge Prep another crack at top-seeded South Torrance in the semifinals. Unfortunately for Flintridge Prep, its aspirations for a state title were foiled following a 2-1 defeat.

“This effort was great,” said Chavez, the All-Area Girls’ Soccer Coach of the Year. “It was all you can ask for.”

Flintridge Prep outscored its opponents, 113-25, and posted 18 shutouts with the 113 goals a school record. The Rebels began the season 9-0-1 and later had an eight-match winning streak that carried them in to the postseason.

3 Morisa Yang, Flintridge Prep girls’ and boys’ tennis – In her second season guiding the Rebels, Yang got plenty accomplished with both squads.

Yang piloted her teams to postseason appearances and received All-Area Girls’ Tennis Coach of the Year and All-Area Boys’ Tennis Coach of the Year honors.

The girls’ team finished 12-9 and took third in the Prep League en route to their most successful campaign in team history. The Rebels’ top player was Crystal Juan, a junior who earned All-Area recognition after going 55-7 and advancing to the second round of the CIF Individual Tournament.

After earning a wild-card berth in the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs, Flintridge Prep began to shine. The Rebels, who just missed qualifying for the playoffs in 2015, began their playoff run with a victory against Lancaster in the wild-card round. They then topped Webb and JW North and second-seeded La Serna before falling, 11-7, in the program's first semifinal appearance to eventual champion Thacher.

“When we started the playoffs, I don’t think we knew what to expect,” Yang said. “With each round, we grew more and more confident and I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish.”

In the spring, the boys’ team enjoyed an impressive season. Like the girls’ team, it had some milestone moments.

Flintridge Prep finished 8-8, 4-2 in the Prep League for second place. The Rebels punched their ticket to the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs as a wild-card entry, led by Derek Tran, a freshman who went 33-9 and was tabbed the All-Area Boys’ Tennis Singles Player of the Year.

Flintridge Prep started the playoffs with a win against Charter Oak for its first playoff victory this century. It then fell, 11-7, to Aliso Niguel in the first round.

4 Tadeh Mardirosian, Glendale girls’ basketball – In his second season at the helm, Mardirosian and the Nitros enjoyed a breakthrough campaign and then some.

Glendale finished 19-12, 7-5 in the Pacific League for fourth place.

However, it truly shined in the postseason, putting forth the greatest run in program chronicle.

With a deep and talented lineup that included senior forward Sylvia Vartazarian and guards Claire and Jillian Yanai, the Nitros elevated their play in the CIF Southern Section Division II-A playoffs after posting league victories against powers Crescenta Valley and Burroughs.

Glendale turned back Whittier, Notre Dame Academy and second-seeded Laguna Niguel to advance to the semifinals for the first time in the program’s history. Glendale lost to champion Leuzinger in the semifinals.

The victory against Whittier was Glendale’s first playoff win this century. Additionally, it marked the first time a Glendale girls’ team in any sport advanced to the semifinals since the water polo team accomplished the feat in 2007.

“The girls are resilient and we’re here for a reason, we’re in the semis for a reason,” said Mardirosian, who took over the program in 2015.

5 Ingrid Herskind, Flintridge Prep boys’ cross-country and boys’ swimming – It was a year of success, particularly at the end of the season for Herskind and her squads.

In 2015, the Rebels boys’ cross-country squad captured a three-peat behind the exploits of the All-Area Athlete of the Year Jack Van Scoter, who captured a Prep League and CIF State Division V title and was second in state.

Perhaps the first question facing Herskind was if someone would carry the torch for the graduated Van Scoter.

Herskind molded an up-and-coming talent in junior Evan Patinelli, an eventual All-Area selection.

On Oct. 29, the Rebels received their first challenge in years but held off archrival Pasadena Poly, 24-42, for their 24th Prep League title in 25 years at Pierce College. On that day, Patinelli captured the individual title in 15:42.10.

Two weeks later, Pattinelli had a banner day at the CIF Southern Section Division V Championships at the Riverside City Cross-Country Course.

The junior continued the tradition of Flintridge Prep individual championships by winning the Division V individual crown in 15:10.8. That day, though, the Rebels finished third with 83 points in surrendering their title.

If there was an upside to the Rebels’ third-place finish, it’s that the effort left room for improvement.

At the CIF State Division V finals on Nov. 26, Flintridge Prep turned in an inspired performance in placing second with 103 points as Pattinelli finished second in 15:39.3.

In swimming, the Rebels were unmatched in the Prep League.

Flintridge Prep rolled to a league title, 413-260, over Webb at Pasadena Poly on April 29 as the Rebels had six swimmers take part in two league victories each.

In 2016, Flintridge Prep finished 14th in the Division III finals despite boasting a CIF champion in Andreas Langen.

In 2017, the Rebels didn’t boast a single championship, yet they placed fourth at the Division III finals with 163 points and finished one point out of the top three.

“Last year the boys were 14th and 20th in 2015,” Herskind said. “So, fourth and missing third by one was a huge improvement.”

Honorable mention: Amanda Peek, Crescenta Valley softball; Kevin Witt, Hoover boys’ water polo.

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