It was a significant cross-town battle between the Burbank High and Burroughs girls' soccer teams when they met for the third time last season.
The teams, which both finished the season tied for fourth place in the Pacific League with 7-6-1 records, were forced to compete in a play-in match after the Bulldogs notched a 4-0 victory against their rival in the regular-season finale. Burbank also won the play-in contest, 2-1, in overtime to earn the final automatic playoff spot from the league.
The Indians ended up making the Division II playoffs with an at-large selection. Burroughs fell in a wild-card game against Lakewood, 4-0. Burbank also lost in a wild-card match against Rancho Cucamonga, 3-0.
Burbank and Burroughs have their share of returning players from last season's squads. The other two city teams, Providence and Bellarmine-Jefferson, will be looking to secure postseason berths with their share of talented players.
Here is a closer look at how the season is shaping up.
The Bulldogs (11-10-2 last season) will field an experienced team that is full of seniors who have spent a number of years in the program.
"We do have a good group of returners this year and I've only got two freshmen who have come into the program," Burbank Coach Eric Montoya said. "We have a lot of seniors and a lot of juniors, so we're going to have the experience. We have something like seven seniors who have been with us for a number of years. This team also has great leadership.
"I think that we should be really strong defensively, strong in the midfield and our forwards are very good. So, we should compete up there with the best of them."
Leading the crop of newcomers are junior forward Clarissa Guerrero, junior midfielder Maddie Carlborg, senior forward Alessia Dal Monte, senior defender Natalie Muller, junior defender Michelle Morales and junior forward/midfielder Dakota Briseno. In goal will be senior Sarah Rangwala.
The team will be missing key player Juliana Marx, a junior defender. Morales said Marx broke her back and will be out for the season.
"We have a pretty tough preseason schedule with some tough opponents and some tough tournaments," Montoya said. "I think we should be ready when league rolls around."
Morales said he is also hoping to benefit from a pair of twin sisters, junior Gabby and Emma Dixon, transfers from Australia who will play defense and in the midfield. Freshman goalkeeper Brianna Jacobo could also see playing time.
"In league, I think that Pasadena might surprise some people this year," Montoya said. "But as far as the toughest teams in league that we'll face, I think it should be Arcadia, Crescenta Valley and Pasadena. But I think we also have a great shot at winning league this year."
The Indians (13-10-2) will field a team that includes seven seniors. In addition, the team should also benefit from an influx of three freshmen who all play together on the same club team.
"These three will really add a lot to the team," Burroughs Coach Eddie Garcia said. "They have all played together and they really know one another and that shows on the field.
"Along with the three, this is an extremely hard-working group. It's a huge difference from last year and the girls are very motivated."
The freshmen are forward/midfielder Angelica Delgado, defender/forward Noelle Garcia and midfielder Brianna Castillo.
Burroughs did lose a few potential returners who decided not to come out for the team this season.
The Indians do, however, return a crop of experienced players. Individuals who Garcia hopes will lead the team are senior midfielder/defender Tatiana Rizzotti — who is currently injured — senior forward Brittany Mata, senior midfielder/defender Brooke Hazard and senior defender Alexis Mendias, who will all share the captain duties.
Another key player is junior midfielder Kelly Arrue, who is up from the junior varsity team. The goalkeeper will be Taylor Bailey-Sumner. Sophomore forward Kristin Masuzumi could also make an impact.
In league, Garcia said he expects his Indians to be among the top-tier teams.
"I know Arcadia is going to be good and CV always has good teams," he said. "But I think we have the talent to compete with those teams."
The Pioneers lost some players to graduation and some players who decided not to come out for the team.
"I feel like we seem to lose players every year who don't want to stick with the program," Pioneers Coach Kordo Doski said. "It is something that's been going on for a few years.
"But for this year's team I think we have the makings of a good team with some talented players. We have two seniors who are going to contribute a lot, but we really have to wait and see what this team is going to become."
Those seniors are midfielder Elizabeth Velez and sweeper Catherine Markey. A player who will be called upon to push the ball up is sophomore forward Karni Boghokian.
"Karni is our most talented player," said Doski, whose team was 2-2 in the Liberty League last season. "She is an athlete who can really, really play. She plays club soccer and she knows how to play soccer at a high level. She can make things happen when she has the ball."
Sophomore midfielder Brittany Uyeno could also make an impact. The goalkeeper will be Taline Gevorkian. Two freshmen who Doski has been impressed with are Olivia Rothrock and Ally Casella.
The coach said he is still trying to find the right positions for a number of players.
"I feel this is a really important year for the transition of this program," Doski said. "Hopefully we'll be able to be successful, but our league is going to be tough."
The Guards are coming off a year in which they went 0-7 and 0-4 in the Santa Cruz League.
Coach Hector Garay said despite the struggles a year ago, Bell-Jeff is ready to turn the page and has high hopes for the season.
"We have seven freshmen and three sophomores, so that's good for us," Garay said. "We always get new players who have never played before. But we have some good [players] this year."
Players who the coach said should pace the team are freshman goalkeeper Diana Salinas, junior midfielder Natalie Kalbakyan, freshman forward Kayla Guzman, senior stopper Hannah Mansouie, senior midfielder Natalie Estrada and senior midfielder Jackie Pons.
"I like that we have a lot of freshmen this year, that's good for the future," Garay said. "I believe I will have a better team than I had last year."