Sarah Morgan, who some portray as the bad girl of Mission League soccer, competes so intensely and with such an angry expression on her face that she is constantly asked what is bothering her.
On second thought, describing the Notre Dame High junior as intense isn’t enough. Fierce is more like it.
This is, after all, a player who was suspended last season for allegedly kicking an opponent in the neck.
For two years, Morgan has been privately criticized by opposing coaches and players for her aggressive play.
Actually, her frequent collisions and occasional outbursts would be unremarkable in a boys’ match. But in a girls’ game, she stands out.
Morgan, who had 20 goals and 15 assists last season, acknowledges that she is part Jekyll, part Hyde.
“I have enemies on the field, but off the field I have best friends,” Morgan said. “I’m usually nice and easygoing, but on the field I’m there to play.”
And that she does--with abandon.
Of course, playing rough and tough doesn’t make you popular. Unless you happen to coach or play for Notre Dame.
“Sarah’s an aggressive player and she commits fouls, but if she’s a dirty player, none of the officials are seeing it,” Notre Dame Coach Neezer McNab said, pointing out that Morgan has never been ejected from a high school match.
As a freshman, Morgan helped unheralded Notre Dame finish 17-6 and qualify for the Southern Section Division II playoffs. Last season, the Knights were expected to challenge for the Mission League title and make a postseason run. Instead, they finished 9-10-2, missing the playoffs.
Morgan scored goal after goal, but a promising season was sullied by team squabbles and by an incident in a Dec. 13 match against Louisville.
A Louisville parent accused Morgan of kicking his daughter in the neck as Morgan climbed to her feet after a collision with the player. McNab said Morgan was issued a yellow-card warning for rough play, indicating that the referee saw a foul but did not deem it worthy of ejection.
However, the Louisville parent threatened legal action and Notre Dame officials suspended Morgan for a rematch with Louisville.
Morgan said she has never tried to hurt an opponent.
“I don’t think I should have been suspended, but I think [Notre Dame] had to keep it cool with Louisville,” Morgan said.
Morgan also has fans among opponents.
“When we play Notre Dame, she’s the one we [guard] everywhere,” Chaminade Coach Mike Evans said. “I don’t think she’s a dirty player. She’s matured and done a better job of controlling her anger.”
Other players to watch:
Crescenta Valley forward Stephanie Rigamat scored a school-record 39 goals last season to earn All-Southern Section Division II honors. . . . Agoura features midfielder April Blaker and forward Christine Larralde, All-Marmonte League picks who combined for 29 goals last season. . . . La Reina midfielder Aimee Thompson has scored 32 goals in the last two seasons. . . .
Chaminade’s Kim Nelli is the Mission League’s best goalkeeper and sweeper Erin Kelley was the league’s 1995-96 co-defensive player of the year. . . . Hart midfielders Laura Qualls and Erin Misaki were third-team all-Division III picks after helping the Indians to a third consecutive Foothill League title. . . .
Kennedy forward Nikki Hagouel scored 27 goals and helped Kennedy to the City Section 3-A Division final. . . . La Canada sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Arase was a member of The Times’ 1995-96 all-Valley team. . . . Forwards Courtney Garmon of Ventura and Rebecca Carroll, an Oak Park sophomore, each scored 17 goals last season. . . . Monroe goalkeeper Lupe Brambila helped the Vikings to last season’s City Section 3-A Division title.
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Teams To Watch BUENA
1995-96 record: 19-5-3
The Bulldogs have won three consecutive Channel League titles and four of the last six. In the last three seasons, they’ve advanced to the Southern Section Division II final and two semifinals. Eight starters return. Senior stopper Megan Munday earned All-Division II honors and senior midfielder Barbara Almaraz had 15 goals and 12 assists and was a second-team all-division pick. Midfielder Melanie Montoya and fullback Angelina Sanderson are senior standouts.
1995-96 record: 19-0-1
The defending City Section 4-A Division champions graduated their two best players in Kim Pickup and Michelle George, but weak opposition almost assures the Chancellors of another title. Sophomore forward Jackie Fodor scored 23 goals last season and senior forward Denise Paul scored 11. Freshman Shannon DeVos will push them for playing time. Pam George and Beezy Preis team in the midfield and Ember Lee anchors the defense along with freshman goalkeeper Tina Essington.
1995-96 record: 23-5-1
The Wolverines graduated striker Jessica Post to Dartmouth and sweeper Natalie Kim to Stanford but should win a second consecutive Mission League title. In the midfield, junior Twila Kaufman, a member of The Times’ all-Valley team, returns along with seniors Sarah Breech and Sara Yeatman. Freshman forward Molly Cahan is touted and will likely rotate with senior Lizzie Fisher and junior Susan Baise, a converted midfielder. The defense is unsettled but freshman goalkeeper Sara Deckers shores up a weakness from last season. "[Post] created a lot of opportunities last year so now there’s a lot of anticipation as to what we have,” Coach Ned Smith said. “It could be great, it could be horrible.”
1995-96 record: 19-1-5
The surprising Seraphs wrested the 1995-96 Tri-Valley League title from perennial champion La Reina and advanced to the second round of the Division IV playoffs. All 11 starters return from the postseason lineup and 28 of 34 players in the program played club soccer. Tempering expectations is the slow return of standout midfielder Chrissy Pike from knee surgery. Pike, a sophomore and a third-team all-division pick, had eight goals and 11 assists. Other all-league players to watch are forwards Erin Croasmun and Danika Cordell, sweeper Jennifer Griffith and fullback Tyler Bruno. Goalkeeper Claire McNamara had eight shutouts and allowed 0.36 goals per match.
1995-96 record: 19-3-1.
Nine starters and 10 seniors return from last year’s team, which won the program’s third Marmonte League title. Senior forward Kristie Nakamura earned All-Division I honors after scoring 19 goals. She teams with junior forward Lauren Mercaldo, who scored 16. Senior midfielders Alia Khan and Molly Bauer were second-team all-league picks last season and junior sweeper Susan Shivokevich was the league’s defensive player of the year. Senior Erika Hanson, an all-league selection, returns at stopper. Last year, the Lancers began the season as unknowns, but that has changed. “It’s a difficult role to be in,” Coach Gail Kanney said. “But these girls are used to a high level of play.”