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Top 10 Glendale News-Press Teams of the Year: Flintridge Prep girls' soccer strikes gold

Top 10 Glendale News-Press Teams of the Year: Flintridge Prep girls' soccer strikes gold
Flintridge Prep girls' soccer teammates celebrate as they pose for photos after beating Garden Grove Pacifica in the CIF Southern Section Division III championship match held at Warren High School in Downey on March 3. (Photo by Dan Watson)

The top 10 high school teams from the 2017-18 season were selected by the Glendale News-Press sports department.

1 Flintridge Prep girls' soccer — There was no stopping the Flintridge Prep girls’ soccer team, which accomplished plenty in a magical season.

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The Rebels finished with a 26-5-2 record and went undefeated at 10-0 for a Prep League title, highlighted by a 6-0 thumping of archrival Pasadena Poly in La Cañada Flintridge on Jan. 16.

The Rebels were seeded third in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs and crushed their first three opponents by a 17-0 total. The Rebels rallied to defeat host Lakewood Mayfair, 3-2, on Feb. 27 before defeating top-seeded Garden Grove Pacifica, 3-1, at Warren High on March 3.

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The championship was the program’s first and completed a dominant Southern Section postseason run as Flintridge Prep outscored its five opponents, 23-3.

Flintridge Prep earned the top seed in the CIF Southern California Regional Division III playoffs and defeated Narbonne and Corona Centennial by a combined score of 15-1 to advance to the finals at St. Francis on March 10.

The Rebels finally fell, 3-2, to second-seeded Academy of Our Lady of Peace, which ended a 26-match unbeaten streak.

"I'm just so proud of what we've accomplished," senior forward Julia Gonzalez said following the Southern Section title game. "This is what we've worked so hard for."

Gonzalez set a single-season area record of 50 goals that earned her the Prep League Offensive Player of the Year and CIF Southern Section Division III Player of the Year awards. Gonzalez was also named the All-Area Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year for the second time in three seasons.

Greg Dulcich and the St. Francis High football team advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division III title game.
Greg Dulcich and the St. Francis High football team advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division III title game. (Libby Cline Birmingham)

2 St. Francis football — The Golden Knights enjoyed a historic year in which they posted a 12-2 record, which included a nine-game winning streak, an unbeaten run in the nonleague season, a 3-1 postseason mark and a 4-1 mark in the Angelus League for second place.

Of course, the highlight of the season came when St. Francis defeated visiting El Toro, 52-17, on Nov. 24 in the CIF Southern Section Division III semifinals. The victory advanced the Golden Knights to a CIF title game for the first time in 53 years.

Long-tenured St. Francis coach Jim Bonds also enjoyed a personal breakthrough as the former UCLA quarterback had been denied five times a championship berth in semifinal contests.

As for that championship tilt at Friedman Field on Dec. 1, the Golden Knights played in an absolute thriller decided on a game-winning 37-yard field goal from kicker Luis Santiago that sealed a Rancho Verde 44-42 win on the final play.

St. Francis totaled 3,236 yards passing and 31 passing touchdowns with 2,492 yards rushing and 49 rushing scores. The squad also averaged 44 points per game.

From that team, junior quarterback Darius Perrantes was named the Angelus League co-MVP, a CIF Southern Section Division III first-teamer and the All-Area Football Player of the Year.

Trevor Beer and the Crescenta Valley High baseball team advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division II quarterfinals.
Trevor Beer and the Crescenta Valley High baseball team advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division II quarterfinals. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

3 Crescenta Valley baseball — When the season began, there wasn’t much hype surrounding the Falcons outside of ace Trevor Beer, who is heading to UC Santa Barbara in the fall and has claimed two straight All-Area Baseball Player of the Year accolades.

After a 1-2 start to the season, the Falcons won eight of their next 10 games heading into Pacific League play.

The Falcons were then utterly magical in league play, going undefeated with a 14-0 mark to capture a third straight league crown and run the Falcons’ record during that stretch to 39-3. Arguably the most momentous of those victories came May 8 at Arcadia.

Crescenta Valley faced Arcadia, which entered ranked No. 1 in Southern California by the Los Angeles Times, No. 4 in California by CalHiSports and No. 10 in the nation by Baseball America, and came away with an emotional 2-1 victory.

The win snapped Arcadia’s 23-game winning streak and clinched the Falcons a share of the title. Crescenta Valley took home the outright crown with a 2-0 victory at Stengel Field on May 11.

As for the postseason, the Falcons advanced out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2015 with a 5-2 win over Lakewood to open Division II action.

Crescenta Valley then defeated Fountain Valley, 5-3, in the second round of the playoffs before losing a 5-3 heart-breaker over Yucaipa in the quarterfinals on May 25 at Stengel Field. The Falcons came within three outs of eliminating the eventual division champions.

4 Crescenta Valley girls’ tennis — Crescenta Valley has set the standard in excellence among local girls’ tennis teams. The one thing missing for the Falcons was participating in a CIF championship match. The closest the Falcons had come was 2003, when they reached the semifinals.

Backed by a talented group that included Rachel Shin and Michelle Jung, the two-time All-Area Girls’ Doubles Tennis Team of the Year, and underclassmen Polin Crete, Victoria Borkowski and Melissa Rosa Muradoglu in singles, Crescenta Valley (15-4, 10-2 in the Pacific League) finally advanced to the championship match after finishing second in league.

Crescenta Valley was the No. 1 seed in Division III and beat Marymount, Atascadero, Pasadena Poly and Brentwood to reach the title match at Claremont Club in Claremont against Redlands (27-0). The Falcons saw their title bid fall by the wayside following a 10-8 defeat.

"Seriously, I remember when I was a freshman and we were No. 5 in league," Shin said Nov. 10. "Every year we improved, we went further in the playoffs. I'm just so proud of this team."

5 Flintridge Prep girls' cross-country — After the retirement of Mike Roffina, the head coaching duties were taken over in full by long-time coach Jill Henry, who missed the early part of the season on maternity leave.

Even so, the Rebels didn’t miss a beat and were in fine form when Henry returned as they finished second in Clovis to archrival Mayfield, 65-131, at Fresno’s Woodward Park in October.

The duo met up again at the Prep League finals at Pierce College on Oct. 28. and again the Cubs won, this time 22-43 to dethrone the reigning champs.

The Rebels bounced back from setbacks to the Division IV Cubs by winning their fifth consecutive CIF Southern Section Division V championship and sixth ever at Riverside Cross Country Course on Nov. 18.

Senior Sophie Gitlin led the charge by finishing second in the division with a time of 17 minutes, 59 seconds.

It was at the CIF State finals at Fresno’s Woodward Park on Nov. 25 where the Rebels really shined.

Flintridge Prep crushed San Francisco University, 74-120, to claim a fourth straight state championship and become the fourth school to win four consecutive girls’ state titles.

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Once again, Gitlin led the way by taking fifth in 18:32.9.

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6 Glendale High girls’ tennis — It had been a struggle in recent seasons for Glendale, which hadn’t qualified for playoffs and had several coaches along the way.

Things changed dramatically and historically for Glendale when it hired Tom Gossard as its new coach in the summer. Gossard won nine Pacific League championships at Crescenta Valley between 1995-2009 before retiring. Looking for a spark, Glendale turned to Gossard to change the complexion of the team and steer it in the right direction by instilling a work ethic for his players to follow in practice.

That’s precisely what happened for Glendale, which finished fourth in the competitive Pacific League before turning it up a notch in the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs. Glendale muscled its way through the playoffs, ultimately winning a CIF championship for the first time in program history. It was also Glendale’s first girls’ title in school history.

Second-seeded Glendale (17-6, 6-6 in league) topped Rancho Mirage, 10-8, in the championship match at Claremont Club in Claremont on Nov. 10. Rancho Mirage entered the contest with a 44-match winning streak and hadn’t lost since 2015.

Glendale, which won its first title since the boys’ water polo team accomplished the feat in 2013, had other ideas.

"It's overwhelming," Gossard said Nov. 10. "This win tells you what's possible when you put the will and the skill together. When the whole team is pulling on the rope in the same direction, this can happen.”

The Nitros had to win a wild-card match against Mark Keppel before turning aside Foothill Technology, Rosemead and Hemet.

7 Glendale Adventist Academy girls’ volleyball — Glendale Adventist Academy opened its doors in 1907 and remained in search for the school’s first CIF championship for more than 100 years. The drought for the small school came to a close in November, when the Cougars put together an impressive volleyball squad and bucked history.

Glendale Adventist (24-6, 5-3 in the Liberty League for second place) enjoyed its finest athletic moment in school history when it captured the CIF Southern Section Division IX championship on Nov. 10. Top-seeded Glendale Adventist recorded a 24-13, 24-26, 25-18, 25-21 win against Santa Clarita Christian at Cerritos College in Norwalk.

Glendale Adventist knocked off Pacific Lutheran, Carpinteria, L.A. Sacred Heart of Jesus and Faith Baptist to reach the championship match for the first time in the program’s history.

Senior outside hitter Paige Singleton was named the division’s player of the year and coach Gared Luquet earned the division’s top coaching accolade.

"For four years, the seniors worked very hard to get here and made it here, but we just didn't make it, we won it," Singleton said Nov. 10. "This was the goal and the dream."

Glendale also advanced to the State Division V Southern California Regional Final.

8 Crescenta Valley girls’ swimming — Maybe the best indicator that the Falcons were due for a breakout year took place at the most prestigious invitational of the season: the Mt. San Antonio College Spring Meet of Champions.

On April 14, the Falcons earned 10 top-10 individual efforts, highlighted by a third-place effort from freshman Amanda Peterson in the 100-yard backstroke (1 minute, 5.23 seconds).

Two weeks later, Crescenta Valley showed that it was top dog in the Pacific League again by toppling archrival and host Arcadia, 102-68, to clinch a share of an 11th straight league title.

Crescenta Valley won eight of 11 events, with Gabi Icheva and Peterson taking part in four victories.

On May 3, the Falcons made sure they wouldn’t split the title by rolling to a victory with 558 points, which was 84 ahead of Arcadia at the Pacific League finals at Burbank High.

If there was a top day this season for Crescenta Valley, it was likely at the CIF Southern Section Division II Championships at Riverside City College on May 13.

The Falcons finished fifth with 151 points as Peterson again turned in the top finish that day by taking bronze in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:05.42.

The best overall effort from the swimming and diving program actually came from junior Katelynn Shaheen, who finished second in the Division II dive championship in Riverside on May 8 with 490.90 points. Shaheen was clipped by Long Beach Millikan’s Jenna Sonnenberg (514.30).

9 Flintridge Prep girls' basketball — Coming into the season, Flintridge Prep set some goals, ranging from winning another Prep League crown to making a deep playoff run. Many of the players who helped win the CIF title in 2016 had graduated, paving the way for the next group of athletes to bolster the program’s tradition.

Flintridge Prep developed a new core — led by sophomore forward and All-Area Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year Kaitlyn Chen — and got plenty accomplished and perhaps arrived ahead of schedule in terms of development. Flintridge Prep easily won its fifth straight league championship and embarked on a postseason run that ended with the Rebels (24-7, 12-0 in league) reaching the CIF Southern Section Division III-A championship under co-coaches Kevin Kiyomura and Jayme Kiyomura Chan.

Flintridge Prep dispatched California, Oxnard Pacifica, Cerritos and top-seed Oxford Academy to advance to the championship game for the second time in three seasons.

Fourth-seeded Flintridge Prep fell to second-seeded Beverly Hills, 50-46, in the championship game at Colony High in Ontario. The Rebels entered the game riding a wave of momentum having won 19 games in a row.

"The season was a definite surprise, a very pleasant surprise," Kiyomura Chan said on March 7. "We had a lot of goals and we met them, so it's definitely a step heading in the right direction in terms of the program's future.

"We went undefeated in winning the Prep League and we wanted to at least get to the second round of CIF. We defeated the top team in CIF and we got to the championship game. There's so much to be proud of."

10 Crescenta Valley softball — The Falcons came into the season as a favorite to win the Pacific League championship. Behind hitting at the top of the lineup from Alyssa Hernandez and Natalie Bitetti and dominant pitching from freshman Dee Dee Hernandez, the All-Area Softball Player of the Year, the Falcons were able to capture a second straight league title.

Under the guidance of coach Amanda Peek, Crescenta Valley finished 25-3, 13-1 in league. The Falcons won the outright title with an 8-2 victory against rival Arcadia in the final game of the regular season.

Crescenta Valley enjoyed a stretch that saw it win 15 straight games early in the season. The Falcons earned the No. 2 seed in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs. Crescenta Valley picked up a first-round win against Knight before suffering a heartbreaking second-round defeat against El Modena.

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Honorable mention: Crescenta Valley girls' basketball; Glendale girls' basketball.

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