The top 10 girls' high school athletes of the year were voted on by the La Cañada Valley Sun sports department.
1 Julia Gonzalez, Flintridge Prep soccer — Jaw-dropping statistics that will not soon be forgotten and unprecedented team success equated to one of the greatest seasons in area lore — no matter the sport, no matter the gender.
That was the season Flintridge Prep senior soccer player Julia Gonzalez put forth.
Statistically, no area soccer player has put up the numbers she did, as she tallied an astronomical 50 goals and her 16 assists weren’t all that bad, either.
As for team success, Flintridge Prep’s girls’ soccer team won the program’s first Southern Section title, as the Rebels followed a dominant run to a Prep League crown with a CIF Southern Section Division III championship.
As for the accolades, she was voted the Prep League Offensive Player of the Year, the All-CIF Southern Section Division III Player of the Year and, for a second time in three years, the All-Area Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year.
And now there’s one more, as she has been tabbed the 2017-18 La Cañada Valley Sun Girls’ Athlete of the Year.
"She had an amazing season and an amazing high school career," Rebels goalie Lindsey Uteda said of Gonzalez following the season. "She's just a very talented player; she's poised, she works hard. She's really just an amazing player."
Flintridge Prep roared to a 26-5-2 campaign that included a 10-0 run of dominance in the Prep League in which it pummeled opponents by a combined 74-6 tally. Keystones of that success were scoring 164 goals on the season, the fourth-best mark in Southern Section history, and producing a 22-match winning streak, which tied for the sixth-longest in Southern Section history.
The pinnacle achievement came when the Rebels defeated Garden Grove Pacifica, 3-1, for the Southern Section Division III plaque on March 3.
"I'm just so proud of what we've accomplished," Gonzalez said that day. "This is what we've worked so hard for."
The Rebels’ season extended into the Southern California Regional Division III championship, where a storybook season came up short of the SoCal triumph when they lost, 3-2, in overtime to San Diego Academy of Our Lady of Peace in a thriller marred by a relentless downpour that slowed Prep’s high-octane game.
For as stellar as the Rebels season was, it’s impossible to know how well it would have gone had it not been for Gonzalez in the early going. With multiple starters missing with injuries, Gonzalez was the constant.
The Division III Rebels faced 11 upper-division teams and emerged with a 5-4-2 record despite the competition and the absences. Gonzalez tallied 13 goals and three assists in that stretch, scoring more than half of her team’s goals.
"What will always stand out to me is what Julia did at the beginning of the year," Flintridge Prep coach Esteban Chavez said. "With that schedule, we could have gone winless. She set the tone for what type of season we were going to have."
Gonzalez’ season for the ages saw her finish with an area-record 50 goals and 116 points, the latter tying her for fifth in the nation, according to Maxpreps.com, and tops in California, while her 50 goals were tied for fifth in the country and tied for the top spot in the state with Truckee's Ava Seelenfreund.
She amazingly scored in 27 of 32 games she played.
"She was just so consistent in the beginning that it kept us afloat," Chavez said. "And, obviously, 50 goals. And it wasn't 50 goals against just bad teams. She scored against everybody."
For four seasons at Flintridge Prep, Gonzalez flourished. Her amazing career saw her impressive numbers and the team’s subsequent success improve season after season before concluding with 2017-18’s season of seasons.
"I am really thankful that I was able to finish that way," Gonzalez said. "I was just proud of myself that I was able to work hard all four years."
2 Helen Schaefer, Flintridge Prep — Each and every season for Helen Schaeffer at Flintridge Prep has been one of amazing statistical splendor and her junior season was no different.
However, as phenomenal as it was, it’s all the more impressive considering she missed the first 12 games of the season.
Still, Schaeffer was a focal point in leading Flintridge Prep to the program’s first CIF Southern Section Division III championship as it defeated Garden Grove Pacifica, 3-1.
Schaeffer scored 35 goals and had 28 assists, which equated to a simply staggering 4.7 points per game and 98 for the season, which was the third-best in the state, according to Maxpreps.com.
"She was so consistent with goals and assists and the plays she made," Rebels coach Esteban Chavez said. "She's just outstanding."
Flintridge Prep finished its season, which also included a Prep League title, 26-5-2.
Perhaps the most amazing stat of all for Schaeffer was that the Rebels were 20-1 with the forward on the field. The only defeat suffered with Schaeffer in the lineup came in a 3-2 overtime defeat to Academy of Our Lady of Peach in the CIF Southern California Division III Regional championship.
Consequently, Schaeffer scored in 20 of the 21 games she played , with the only time she was shut down coming in the loss.
Not surprisingly, she was an All-Prep League, All-CIF and All-Area selection at season’s end.
3 Carolyne Stern, La Cañada water polo — A wonderful junior year began in the offseason for the Spartans’ top-notch goalie.
Stern finished with 50 saves for Team USA as it finished 8-0 to win the UANA PanAm Youth Championships in Peru. Her top effort might have been when she tallied 10 stops in a 9-7 victory over Brazil on July 8 in the title game.
As for the high school season, Stern was named the All-Area Girls’ Water Polo Player of the Year, an All-CIF Division II first-teamer and the Rio Hondo League Most Valuable Player.
The Spartans rallied from a choppy start to the season to finish 18-10 and 8-0 in league to win a third straight Rio Hondo League crown. The team also advanced to the quarterfinals of the Division II playoffs.
Individually, Stern’s brilliant year was backed by a career-high 227 saves and 27 assists.
4 Sophie McKenzie, La Cañada tennis — A three-year standout for the Spartans, McKenzie enjoyed her finest season on the court. McKenzie finished 32-4, 16-1 in Rio Hondo League competition.
The junior won the league singles crown before advancing to the round of 32 in the CIF Southern Section Individual Tournament and helped the Spartans qualify for the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs and register a postseason victory.
McKenzie was tabbed the All-Area Girls’ Singles Player of the Year for the second straight season.
McKenzie picked up the league title after turning back San Marino's Libby Chang, 6-1, 6-1, at Arcadia Tennis Center.
"When she's on the court, Sophie knows what her job is and she just goes out there and does it," La Cañada coach Will Moravec said. "She doesn't goof around and take an opponent lightly and she tries to win convincingly.
"What happens sometimes is when she beats an opponent to start off a match, that person might get a little down because of the loss and that opens the door for some of our other players. She can set things up for our other players. We try to use her dominance to our advantage."
5 Sophie Garcia, La Cañada wrestling — Without the benefit of a true girls’ team, the pioneering wrestler turned in a historic season.
Garcia finished a 3-0 run to capture the Bonita “Top Gun” Tournament championship at 170 pounds on Jan. 13.
As for the postseason, Garcia took third place at the CIF Southern Section Girls’ Regional Qualifier in Upland on Feb. 2 by finishing 2-1 with two pins and earning advancement to the next round.
Arguably Garcia’s greatest effort took place the following weekend at the CIF Southern Section Girls’ Wresting Championships at Eastvale Eleanor Roosevelt High.
Garcia took third in her weight class and became her school’s and the area’s first girls’ wrestler to advance to the CIF State Meet. Garcia was also La Cañada’s first state advancer since 160-pounder Spencer Tompkins reached the tournament in 2007.
She finished the two-day tournament with a 5-1 run with two pins.
At the state finals, Garcia posted a 1-2 record to earn an 8-4 postseason mark.
6 Kaitlyn Chen, Flintridge Prep basketball — With a relatively young team, Chen took on the role of providing leadership and experience as a sophomore forward. Chen helped Flintridge Prep get plenty accomplished. The Rebels won the Prep League championship for the fifth straight season and advanced to the championship contest of the CIF Southern Section Division III-A playoffs. It paved the way for Chen to be named the All-Area Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year.
Chen and the Rebels bucked the odds throughout most of the season, which concluded with them qualifying for the state tournament. Having seen several key starters graduate, Chen took charge on the court.
Chen averaged an area-best 21.2 points per game and contributed 8.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.8 steals. Chen, who was named the league's most valuable player, collected 24 points, eight rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.8 steals per game in the playoffs and helped Flintridge Prep (24-8, 12-0 in league) advance to the championship game for the second time in three seasons. Chen received All-CIF Southern Section first-team recognition.
In Chen's two seasons at Flintridge Prep, the Rebels are 48-11, 24-0 in league.
"Kaitlyn learned how to be a leader and get her teammates involved at practice and games,” Flintridge Prep co-coach Kevin Kiyomura said. “This year was clearly her turn and she more than exceeded our expectations. We saw that in the regular season and throughout the playoffs."
7 Lauren Bolte, Flintridge Sacred Heart soccer and track and field — The two-sport star shined in both her pursuits, beginning in the winter.
On the Tologs soccer team, the striker was instrumental in leading her squad to its first Mission League title since 2011. For her efforts, Bolte was named the Mission League Most Valuable Offensive Player after finishing with eight goals and eight assists.
She was also an All-Area first-team selection.
During the track season, Bolte finished third in the 400 meters with a personal-best time of 59.16 seconds, while she was fourth in the 200 in another personal-record mark of 26.27 at the Mission League finals at Occidental College on May 3.
Bolte advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division IV championships at Torrance El Camino College on May 19 and placed ninth in the 400 in 1:00.19.
8 Chloe Kerstein, La Cañada volleyball — Kerstein capped her four-year career in style, culminating in her being named the All-Area Girls’ Volleyball Player of the Year for the first time.
Kerstein, an outside hitter, helped the Spartans return to prominence with their first Rio Hondo League championship since 2012. Kerstein was named to the All-CIF Southern Section Division IV team, along with being selected the league’s most valuable player.
Kerstein finished with 383 kills, 293 digs and 57 aces to help the Spartans go 22-7 and 9-1 in league. La Cañada reached the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section playoffs for the first time since 2012.
9 Kayley Bond, La Cañada cross-country — Only a freshman, Bond blazed a path of dominance and helped maintain a tradition of excellence at La Cañada.
Bond finished in the top three in all but one of the Spartans’ nine races, while posting three victories and never finishing worse than 10th.
Runner-up efforts at the Woodbridge Invitational and Staub-Barnes Invitational were topped by victories at all three Rio Hondo League meets, which included a league championship in a time of 18 minutes, 6.3 seconds at Lacy Park on Nov. 2.
Bond earned third at the CIF Southern Section Division IV championships in Riverside on Nov. 18 in a time of 17:52.6, while leading the Spartans to a fifth-place finish and a berth to the CIF State Meet for the first time since 2012.
At the CIF State Division IV championships, the Spartans turned in a great effort to take third place, while Bond led the way by placing seventh in 18:35.7.
10 Holly Stoner, La Cañada softball — Stoner, a senior, continued her excellence inside the circle for the Spartans. The right-hander came through in helping the Spartans win their fourth Rio Hondo League championship in a row and advance to the quarterfinals in the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs.
Stomer was named the league’s most valuable pitcher for the third straight season and was bestowed with All-Area first-team recognition
La Cañada finished 22-5-1, 11-1 in league and made it to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014.