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Daily Pilot Girls’ Soccer Dream Team: Emily Johnson sparked big rise from Newport Harbor

Senior midfielder Emily Johnson of Newport Harbor girls’ soccer is the Daily Pilot Dream Team Player
Emily Johnson, a senior midfielder for Newport Harbor, finished with six goals and a team-high 10 assists in the 2018-19 season.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Newport Harbor High senior Emily Johnson remembers playing at Santa Margarita her freshman year.

The Sailors lost that girls’ soccer match to the powerhouse Eagles 4-1. Johnson said it felt worse.

Johnson thought about that match after the penultimate one of her high school career as a senior. Again the Sailors traveled to Santa Margarita, this time for the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

Johnson scored the match-winning goal off a corner kick in the second half, as Newport Harbor earned a 1-0 victory.

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“It was super-awesome when I scored that goal and ended up winning the game,” Johnson said. “It kind of just represents how the program has changed and how we’re up there with those teams like that. That was the best feeling, and we all dogpiled after. I loved that moment.”

Though the Sailors would lose 2-0 to Los Alamitos in the Division 1 quarterfinals, it was a senior season to remember for Johnson, better known on the team by her initials of “E.J.” Newport Harbor (18-3-6) lost just three matches all season, two to the Division 1 finalist Griffins. They went 5-0-1 in the Wave League to claim their first league title since the 1985-86 season.

Johnson joined a program that won just four matches her freshman year, and left it as one of the best in Orange County. The UC Santa Barbara-bound midfielder was a key part of that transformation, and Johnson earns 2018-19 Daily Pilot Girls’ Soccer Dream Team Player of the Year honors.

Newport Harbor’s Emily Johnson and Mission Viejo’s Isabel McAteer battle for a ball during a first
Newport Harbor's Emily Johnson, right, and Mission Viejo's Isabel McAteer battle for a ball in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs at Davidson Field on Feb. 6.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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Johnson returned from a year away from high school soccer, playing in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy with her club team Slammers FC as a junior. Her senior year for Newport Harbor was spent as a holding midfielder, able to focus on defense but also push the ball up the field. She formed a strong midfield along with senior Sofia Velazquez — who shared team captain duties with Johnson — as well as sophomore Reese Bodas.

Johnson had six goals and a team-best 10 assists for the Sailors, earning Wave League Co-MVP accolades along with teammate Sadie Pitchess. Johnson was an All-CIF Southern Section Division 1 selection.

“Her sophomore season, she kind of beat everybody with athleticism, technical skill, speed,” third-year Newport Harbor coach Justin Schroeder said. “By the time she got to her senior year, she was a much more heady player, more cerebral tactically, so much more advanced than the other players. You saw her develop into a complete player her senior year. Her stats weren’t overwhelming, but I would be shocked if I didn’t go back and see her as part of almost every single goal that we [scored] this year. We played her fairly far behind the ball, and she kind of just found ways to be effective all over the field.”

Schroeder credits Johnson’s club soccer coach with Slammers FC, former CdM boys’ soccer coach George Larsen, for that development. Johnson said she plays possession soccer with the Slammers, and that’s the style she enjoys.

Newport Harbor’s Emily Johnson (12) dribbles past a Los Alamitos defender during girls’ quarterfinal
Newport Harbor's Emily Johnson (12) dribbles past a Los Alamitos defender in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs at Davidson Field on Feb. 12.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I think that’s true, genuine soccer, rather than playing kickball or always playing it to the same player,” Johnson said. “It’s so much more fun when you’re able to connect passes, having good buildups.”

Johnson said she was glad that she returned to high school soccer. She helped the Sailors win the Best in the West tournament “ABCD” Division, which was their third straight year winning the tournament. They also earned a convincing 3-0 Battle of the Bay win at rival Corona del Mar in a Sunset Conference crossover match, with Johnson scoring on a penalty kick.

“It was basically the perfect senior season that you could ask for, making it further in CIF than I ever have and just the team overall,” she said. “Being close with the other seniors was awesome, too. Yeah, I think it was a great way to end my high school experience, for sure. I feel like this year also leaves a precedent for future years. That makes me really proud that I’m able to leave that, especially as a senior.”

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Los Amigos High Cassidy Abad, left, shares a laugh with her players during a team practice on Tuesda
Los Amigos coach Cassidy Abad, left, led the Lobos to their first CIF Southern Section title.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

COACH OF THE YEAR

Cassidy Abad

Los Amigos

Los Amigos has been a team on the rise in recent seasons. In her seventh year as coach, though, Abad delivered the Lobos their first CIF Southern Section title in program history. They won Division 5, defeating Pasadena Westridge 4-1 in penalty kicks after the teams played to a scoreless draw through regulation at Garden Grove High on Feb. 22. Los Amigos (18-4-2) also won the Garden Grove League title and Abad, who is a math teacher on campus, did well to shape a senior class that came into the program as a Division 7 team and left as Division 5 champions.

FIRST TEAM

Vidalia Abarca

FW | Los Amigos | Sr.

Abad called Abarca, who is bound for Cal State San Bernardino, the most consistent girls’ soccer player that Los Amigos has ever produced. After scoring 54 goals as a junior she scored 37 as a senior, playing more defense and whatever the team needed. Her work at center back was essential to the Lobos winning the CIF Southern Section Division 5 title match. Abarca, a repeat first-team Dream Team selection, was the Garden Grove League MVP and the CIF Southern Section Division 5 MVP as well.

Laguna Beach High’s Reilyn Turner heads the ball in for the game’s first goal against Huntington Bea
Laguna Beach's Reilyn Turner heads the ball in for the game's first goal against Huntington Beach in a Sunset Conference crossover match in Laguna Beach on Jan. 3.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Reilyn Turner

FW | Laguna Beach | Jr.

Last year’s Dream Team Player of the Year as a sophomore, Turner did not slow down as a junior. A UCLA commit who has played on the U.S. Under-16 and Under-17 National Teams, Turner helped Laguna Beach (4-11-5) finish second in the Wave League and advance to the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs, where the Breakers lost 1-0 at Brea Olinda in the first round. Turner was named the Wave League Most Outstanding Offensive Player.

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Desiree Mendoza

FW | Estancia | Jr.

Mendoza has been a first-team Dream Team selection for three years running now for the Eagles. The talented striker earned Orange Coast League MVP honors after scoring 22 of her 28 goals in league play, including at least one in every league game. She helped Estancia (9-9-1) finish third in the league after scoring all of the Eagles’ goals in a 4-2 win over rival Costa Mesa in the league finale, the only loss in league action for the league champion Mustangs. Estancia beat Lynwood 2-1 in a CIF Southern Section Division 4 wild-card match before losing 2-1 at Hemet in the first round. Mendoza was an All-CIF Southern Section Division 4 selection.

Newport Harbor’s Reese Bodas (3) heads the ball as she is bumped by Los Alamitos’ Analisa Gjonovich
Newport Harbor's Reese Bodas (3) heads the ball as she is bumped by Los Alamitos' Analisa Gjonovich in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs at Davidson Field on Feb. 12.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Reese Bodas

MF | Newport Harbor | So.

Coming off an Under-15 national title in club soccer with Slammers FC, Bodas worked very well in the middle of the field along with Johnson and senior Sofia Velazquez. She scored the first goal in the Sailors’ impressive 3-0 win at rival Corona del Mar in the Battle of the Bay, a Sunset Conference crossover match. Bodas finished with 10 goals, which tied for the team lead with Skylynn Rodriguez. She also had five assists and was a first-team All-Wave League selection.

Mya Rodriguez

MF | Los Amigos | Sr.

Rodriguez played a lot of defense for the Lobos but would also move up to the midfield when Abarca rotated in at center back. A four-year varsity starter, she was also crucial in Los Amigos’ CIF Southern Section Division 5 title run. Rodriguez, who played goalkeeper as a freshman and sophomore, moved into the goal during the Division 5 title match when usual starting keeper Andrea Mendoza-Reyes hurt her ankle. She made four saves in the second half and overtime. Rodriguez was the Garden Grove League Defensive Player of the Year and an All-CIF Southern Section Division 5 selection. She is bound for Santa Ana College.

Corona del Mar High’s Megan Chelf (12) has to leap over Edison goalie Alyssa Plotkin (00) after shoo
Corona del Mar's Megan Chelf (12) leaps over Edison goalkeeper Alyssa Plotkin (00) after scoring a goal in a Surf League match in Huntington Beach on Jan. 10.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Megan Chelf

MF | Corona del Mar | Jr.

Chelf, a repeat first-team Dream Team selection and University of Arizona commit, started the season on fire and exploded into one of the area’s top goal scorers. She earned Surf League Most Outstanding Offensive Player honors after Chelf helped the Sea Kings (13-4-4) finish second in the difficult four-team league and advance to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, losing 3-2 at Troy in the first round. Chelf scored a CdM program-record 22 goals and added a team-best eight assists, earning All-CIF Southern Section Division 1 accolades.

Rachelle Elve

MF | Edison | Sr.

Elve, headed to San Diego State, controlled things for the Chargers in the middle. An offensive halfback who sometimes played forward, the team captain earned first-team All-Surf League accolades for Edison (11-7-4), which finished last in the league and failed to qualify for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. Longtime coach Kerry Crooks complimented the all-around leadership of Elve, a four-year varsity player.

Huntington’s Kekoa Nelson, left, collides with a Los Alamitos defender as they go for ball control d
Huntington Beach's Kekoa Nelson, left, collides with a Los Alamitos defender as they go for the ball in the Mater Dei Premier Invitational match at Irvine's Orange County Great Park on Dec. 13, 2017.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Kekoa Nelson

DEF | Huntington Beach | Sr.

A three-year starter on defense for the Oilers, Nelson was the rock in the back for Huntington Beach. She earned Surf League Most Outstanding Defensive Player honors for the Oilers (11-8-8), who finished third in the four-team league and lost 2-1 at Aliso Niguel in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. Known as a leader more by example, coach Raul Ruiz said that Nelson got more vocal as a senior. She is bound for Cal State Dominguez Hills.

McKenna Pua

DEF | Marina | So.

Marina (7-11-6) finished last in the Wave League and found it difficult to replicate its success from a year ago, when the Vikings finished third in the Sunset League and advanced to the postseason for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Pua, a talented center back, certainly wasn’t the reason for the Vikings’ struggles. She anchored the back line, especially with senior goalkeeper Bella Carver missing the season with a broken wrist. Pua, a Washington State commit, was the Wave League Co-Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year.

Costa Mesa’s Daisy Carrillo goes up for a header against Calvary Chapel’s Isabella Beortegui during
Costa Mesa's Daisy Carrillo (5) goes up for a header against Calvary Chapel's Isabella Beortegui in an Orange Coast League home match on Jan. 17.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Daisy Carrillo

DEF | Costa Mesa | Fr.

Carrillo and her older sister, Vanessa, a junior, proved very formidable in the back for the Mustangs. Daisy played like an older player and her ball-winning skills helped Costa Mesa (19-3-4) win the Orange Coast League, its first league title since 2008-09. The top-seeded Mustangs then advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 5 semifinals, just their second semifinal berth in program history, before falling 1-0 against Pasadena Westridge. Daisy Carrillo was a first-team All-Orange Coast League selection and an All-CIF Southern Section Division 5 selection.

Lola Fisher

GK | Laguna Beach | Sr.

Fisher was a two-sport standout for the Breakers. A first-team all-Wave League selection in soccer, she was also a second-team All-Wave League selection in softball. Fisher became Laguna Beach’s third starting goalkeeper in three seasons and, outside of a 6-0 loss at Marina, the Breakers gave up just five goals in their other five league matches. Fisher impressed Fountain Valley coach Scott Goldman by making a number of tough saves in the teams’ scoreless draw that concluded the regular season.

SECOND TEAM

Position, Name, School, Year

FW Natalia Guzman, Costa Mesa, Jr.

FW Natalie Hueston, Corona del Mar, Sr.

FW Rayleen Chavez, Costa Mesa, Sr.

MF Sadie Hill, Pacifica Christian Orange County, Sr.

MF Lexi Van Den Bosch, Sage Hill, So.

MF Alexandra Santiago, Ocean View, Jr.

MF Chantelle Sanchez, Fountain Valley, Sr.

DEF Avery Doherty, Corona del Mar, So.

DEF Samara Golan, Newport Harbor, So.

DEF Vanessa Carrillo, Costa Mesa, Jr.

GK Aubrey Hallman, Costa Mesa, So.

::

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matthew.szabo@latimes.com

Twitter: @mjszabo


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