Saule Sadunas is a serious student. She is just as serious on the soccer field where she plays sweeper for Mater Dei. She has to be.
She often is the last line of defense before the goalie.
Sadunas, The Times’ athlete of the week, is one of the county’s best sweepers and a major reason for Mater Dei’s success this season. The Monarchs won the Angelus League title, are 22-4-2 and will play host to Canyon in the semifinals of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs at 3 p.m. today.
Mater Dei has scored 69 goals and allowed only 11.
“The thing I see about Saule that carries her beyond other sweepers is, number one, she is unbelievably consistent, and she does what we call in soccer ‘constructive distributions,’ ” Coach Marty Breen said. “She doesn’t just kick the ball up field to get the pressure off . . . when Saule moves the ball, we retain possession. She is constructively building something, not just kicking it away, but generating a quick counterattack. That comes from her intelligence and ability to see how things are evolving on the field.”
Saule has earned a 4.3 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale by taking honors courses in English, history and algebra.
An intelligent sweeper is a luxury, said Monarch goalie Michelle Lodyga, who has logged 20 shutouts this season thanks to her abilities and her defensive support.
She and many of her teammates credit Saule as the team’s unsung hero.
“It’s hard to play with a sweeper who is either not confident or not smart enough to realize something is not working. But Saule is very confident,” Lodyga said.
Saule, a junior, played her first two seasons on varsity as a forward. Initially, she was upset about the switch to the low-profile position of sweeper this season, but she has adjusted.
“I think a lot of the team realizes my contribution,” she said. “They tell me how they know I don’t get a lot of recognition, but that they really appreciate what I do. So in a way I do get recognition.”
Joni Easterly scored 44 points in two games to help Katella’s girls’ basketball team to Southern Section 4-A playoff victories over Woodbridge and top-seeded Palos Verdes.
Keri Erkenbrack’s three-point shot with 7 seconds remaining gave Canyon a 49-48 semifinal victory over Camarillo in a 4-A playoff game. She finished with 29 points.
Brea-Olinda guard Aimee McDaniel connected on 15 of 16 shots for a season-high 35 points in the Wildcats’ 3-A quarterfinal victory over St. Lucy’s of Glendora Thursday. She scored a team-high 18 points Saturday in a semifinal victory over St. Joseph of Lakewood.
Goalie Michelle Lodyga made nine saves and recorded her 20th shutout of the season for Mater Dei (22-4-2) in a 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Long Beach Wilson Wednesday in the second round of the 3-A soccer playoffs.
Sophomore Lynn Murray scored two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, and assisted on another goal to pace the top-seeded Esperanza girls’ soccer team to a 3-1 victory over Chaffey Tuesday in the second round of the 4-A girls’ soccer playoffs.
Mater Dei High School
Height, Weight, Class: 5-4, 115, Junior
Last Week: Saule was the starting sweeper in two playoff victories in which the Monarchs allowed only one goal.
Season: Saule anchors a Monarch defense that has posted 20 shutouts.