Sacred Heart garners Division II's top seed

GLENDALE — In a season of firsts for the soccer team of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy — among them a first-ever Mission League title to go with an unprecedented run as the CIF Southern Section Division II top-ranked team — it’s still looking to make even more history.

And in those hopes, comes the realization that a wonderful regular season is most assuredly over and done with.

“We can’t be excited to be the No. 1 seed, that’s history. We can’t be excited about winning the Mission League, that’s history,” said Flintridge Sacred Heart co-Coach Frank Pace shortly after the CIF offices released the playoff pairings on Monday. “We need to go out now and focus on winning on Thursday and then we’ll focus on the next step.”

Thursday will see the Tologs host either Eisenhower or Beckman in a first-round Division II playoff contest, while Crescenta Valley, the Pacific League champ, hosts Chino. Flintridge Prep, the Prep League’s No. 3 team, heads to the road, however, traveling to face Martin Luther King, the Big VIII League’s second-place finisher.

“This is a whole new season,” Falcons Coach Reggie Rivas said.

For Sacred Heart (15-4-4), the new-season approach is clearly something it’s subscribing to also, with the Tologs hoping for their first postseason win since 1997.

They will face either Eisenhower (7-6-2), the Citrus Belt League’s No. 4 team, or Beckman (8-3-7), an at-large entry from the Pacific Coast League. The teams will lock up today with the winner facing Sacred Heart on Thursday, likely at 5 p.m. at St. Francis, according to Pace.

Whether his team is the No. 1 seed or not, Pace isn’t taking anybody lightly.

“It doesn’t make any difference, I know we’re one game from elimination — that’s our sense of urgency,” he said. “I don’t really see any big benefit in being the No. 1 seed.”

Led by seniors Sinead Fleming, Pip Harragin and Izzy Johnson and bolstered by the offense of freshmen Katie Johnson, Breeana Koemans and Tera Trujillo, Sacred Heart emerges from a highly-regarded Mission League. However, they tied their last two games of the regular season. Reclaiming a bit of the zeal that they played with before last week on top of continued offensive success look to be the biggest keys to victory.

“I think we have to play with the urgency we played with before we won league,” Pace said. “I’m sure we’ll be ready to play.

“We just need to score. [The freshmen] have to get used to playing with the pressure, they have to put the ball in the net.”

Should Sacred Heart prevail Thursday, it will face either Saugus, which defeated the Tologs earlier this season, or Highland on Tuesday

The Falcons (17-2-4) are hoping to ride the momentum of a league title-clinching win last Thursday against Arcadia, when they face Chino (8-7-3).

“I think every game’s gonna be tough,” said Rivas, who will be without standout Tori Baldridge for the remainder of the season, but regains all-league midfielder Brittany Berger, who missed Thursday due to a red card. “We’re focusing, moving forward, we’re getting Brittany Berger back.

“It’s a team effort and the girls showed it against Arcadia.”

Led by the likes of forwards Jordan Royer and Frances Boukidis and midfielder Danny Cardenas, the Falcons on Thursday came out enthusiastic and ready to play. It’s something Rivas believes is essential for a long playoff run.

“We have talent on our team,” said Rivas, whose team, should it win, would face either South Hills or Chaffey on Tuesday, “now it’s time to get mentally [prepared and] excited.”

The Rebels (8-8-1) will play either La Mirada or Beverly Hills on Tuesday should they advance past the first round.

It will be a tall order, however, as Prep drew Martin Luther King (18-3-3). While Rebels Coach Esteban Chavez doesn’t know a lot about the Wolves personnel-wise, by looking at their schedule, he realizes the Riverside program poses quite a challenge.

“On paper, they look really solid,” said Chavez, whose team is keyed offensively by Brooke Elby and Alina Okamoto. “As far as that, I know we’re gonna face a really tough team.

“They played a lot of big guns.”

But Chavez is ready to throw everything at them.

“We’re not gonna go defensively at all,” he said. “We’re gonna try and take it to them and go at them offensively.”

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