A season ago, the Crescenta Valley High boys’ soccer team ran away from its competition in the Pacific League.
With a squad filled with plenty of juniors and seniors, Crescenta Valley didn’t lose a league match en route to winning league by 10 points.
While Crescenta Valley would like to win a second league crown in a row, it will take a new core of players to pave the way.
St. Francis was the only other local team to qualify for the playoffs last season. Flintridge Prep split the Prep League title in 2018, yet didn’t qualify for the playoffs. Glendale and Hoover will look to put the pieces of the puzzle together with the Nitros turning to a new coach.
CIF underwent realignment for a third year in a row, though four teams will stay in the division they were in last season.
Here’s a closer look at the teams.
Don’t sell the Falcons short in their quest to remain atop of the Pacific League. Crescenta Valley finished 18-5-3, 12-0-2 in league and earned the No. 2 seed in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs. Crescenta Valley, which won league for the first time since 2012, lost to California in the second round.
Though the Falcons, who will stay in Division III, have some postseason experience, a few new players will be starting for the first time.
“We’re going to be pretty young going at certain areas, so we’ll need to outscore the other teams and get our defensive unit up to speed,” said Crescenta Valley coach Grant Clark, the reigning All-Area Boys’ Soccer Coach of the Year. “We feel like we have a chance to win league again, but we’ll make some mistakes being young.
“We feel like we have a team that can score a lot. It’s just about making sure our defense is as good as possible jumping into league.”
Crescenta Valley, which lost Dallas Kaauwai, who was named the All-Area Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year, to graduation, will rely on a core of seniors with midfielder David Villasenor, senior centerback Filip Szkutek and junior forward/midfielder Eric Cho.
St. Francis grabbed fourth place in the Mission League last season and returned to the Division II playoffs. The Golden Knights (12-10-2, 6-5-1) fell to Sunny Hills in the first round.
St. Francis coach Glen Appels will look for the Golden Knights, who will remain in Division II, to make a climb in league while having talent at every grade level.
“With our roster, I think we’ll be evenly distributed among the seniors, juniors and sophomores,” said Appels, who has led the Golden Knights to three CIF championships and one Southern California Regional title. “I really like the blend because usually you have a lineup with mostly juniors and seniors.
“We’ll be starting league play in December instead of January. The league will again be very tough, so the key will be to get out of the gate fast.”
St. Francis will turn to experienced players such as senior centerback Scott Cross-Hernandez, who picked up all-league honors last season, and senior forward Ian Odermatt. They will be joined by senior midfielder Alex Jordan and junior goalkeeper Luis Granados.
It turned out to be quite an unusual campaign for the Rebels last season. Flintridge Prep shared the Prep League championship with Chadwick and Firebaugh, yet Flintridge Prep (9-7-1) was left out of the playoffs.
With a three-way tie for first in the four-team league, which bestowed just two automatic playoff spots, Chadwick, Firebaugh and Flintridge Prep went 3-2-1, however, Chadwick won a tiebreaker via coin flip. Flintridge Prep suffered a 1-0 defeat against Firebaugh in a play-in match.
Flintridge Prep coach Esteban Chavez, who also serves as the school’s girls’ coach which he led to the Division III championship last season, said the Rebels learned a lesson after coming up short last season.
“We saw how every minute of every league game is crucial,” Chavez said. “We had a lot of chances, but it just didn’t work out for us.
“We’ve since lost 13 players to graduation, but this current group is hungry to learn. I just want to see them taste some success.”
Flintridge Prep will be led by senior defender Evan White, senior defender/midfielder Spencer Harris, sophomore defender Andrew Odom and sophomore forward/midfielder Silas Chavez.
The Rebels will stay in Division VI.
A new regime will begin for the Nitros. Glendale brought in Brandon Weisman as its new coach, supplanting Artur Aghasyan, who held the position the past six seasons.
Glendale missed out on the Division IV playoffs after finishing 7-8-3, 4-7-3 in the Pacific League for fifth place.
Weisman, who served as the boys’ soccer coach at Chaparral High in Temecula the past two seasons, would like to get Glendale back on track quickly.
“There’s quite a bit of talent here and they just need a push to get going,” Weisman said. “We have a lot of senior leadership, plus a lot of juniors, and we’d like to make a push at league and the playoffs.
“We have a team that’s committed, so we’ll look to shock a few teams [in league].”
Glendale, which will remain in Division IV, will count on senior forward Jose Zamora and seniors midfielders Ernesto Hernandez and Dro Gharibian to lead the charge.
Last season, Hoover missed the Division IV playoffs after qualifying for the postseason in 2017. The Tornadoes went 4-12-4, 3-8-3 in the Pacific League for seventh place.
“A few things didn’t go well for our guys last season and we want to turn it around,” Hoover coach Ace Metallinos said. “We have a good mix of players now and we are expecting to be a little stronger across the board.
“We are light on seniors, but we have a good group of juniors.”