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Girls' Soccer Preview: Flintridge Prep hungry for another CIF championship

Girls' Soccer Preview: Flintridge Prep hungry for another CIF championship
Flintridge Prep girls' soccer coach Esteban Chavez piloted the Rebels to the CIF Southern Section Division III championship last season. (Tim Berger | Staff Photographer)

For a number of seasons, the Flintridge Prep girls’ soccer team inched closer to contending for a CIF Southern Section championship.

With an abundance of talent and experience, the Rebels sealed the deal when they captured the Division III title last season. It marked the first CIF crown in program history and its left the Rebels hungry for more.

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Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Crescenta Valley, Glendale and St. Monica Academy all qualified for the playoffs last season and will look to make return trips. Hoover and Holy Family continue to make strides in reshaping their squads.

CIF underwent realignment across the seven divisions for a third straight year, leading to Flintridge Prep and Flintridge Sacred Heart being moved to new divisions this season.

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Here is a closer look at the teams.

FLINTRIDGE PREP

Everything came together last season for the Rebels, who played an arduous schedule that helped them win the Prep League, the Division III title and an appearance in the Southern California Regional Division III final.

Flintridge Prep (26-5-4, 10-0 in league) turned to its suffocating offense and clutch goal scorers to complete its dream season under the guidance of coach Esteban Chavez, who was named to the All-Area Girls’ Soccer Coach of the Year.

Flintridge Prep defeated Garden Grove Pacifica, 3-1, in the CIF Division III title match before falling, 3-2, to Our Lady of Peace in overtime in the regional final.

“What we did last year won’t be forgotten,” Chavez said. “We did so many tings well and we took pride in what we were able to accomplish. It took about three years in development and building an identity and you love the game if you enjoy the process.

“This year, we are going to have to stay healthy and we’ll need some luck. We do have experience and we know how to get the job done. We got better, but so did everybody else in our league and in our new division. So, we’ll see where we stand soon.”

Flintridge Prep, which scored 164 goals and won 22 straight matches last season, was moved to Division II.

The Rebels lost several key players to graduation, including Julia Gonzalez, who was selected the All-Area Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year after collecting an jaw-dropping 50 goals and 116 points.

Still, don’t expect the Rebels to be bereft of talent.

Flintridge Prep brings back standout senior forward/midfielder Helen Schaefer, a reigning All-Area selection who finished with 35 goals and 28 assists last season despite missing 12 matches because of injury.

She will be joined by senior midfielder Mika Celeste, senior defender/midfielder Caitlin Fong, senior defender Arielle Guzman and sophomore forward/midfielder Mckenna Dominguez, all of whom picked up All-Area recognition last season, and freshman forward/midfielder Kyle Oh.“

FLINTRIDGE SACRED HEART ACADEMY

Flintridge Sacred Heart put together an impressive regular season, culminating in winning its first Mission League championship since 2011. The joy from claiming the league crown was brief after Flintridge Sacred Heart (10-5-4, 5-1-2) squandered a late two-goal lead and lost to Valencia Valencia, 3-2, in the first round of the Division II playoffs.

The Tologs lost a few key players to graduation, including Amethyst Trang, the league’s most valuable player who earned All-Area and All-CIF accolades.

It’s possible Flintridge Sacred Heart will be rebuilding part of its squad this season.

“We lost our whole defensive unit from a season ago, so we’ll be young back there while we look for the next wave of talent,” Flintridge Sacred Heart coach Mark Snashall said. “I think we’ll be competitive and there’s going to be a very high learning curve for the freshmen. I think we’ll be fine up front.”

The Tologs, who are now in Division III, bring back standout junior forward Lauren Bolte and senior forward Jillian Willis. Bolte picked up All-Area honors last season after contributing eight goals and eight assists.

CRESCENTA VALLEY

Competing in the formidable Pacific League, Crescenta Valley took third and advanced to the Division III playoffs last season. Crescenta Valley went 10-8-5, 8-2-2 to finish behind Arcadia and Burroughs in league before falling, 3-0, to Corona Centennial in the first round of the playoffs.

Crescenta Valley will look to move up in league despite not having any seniors.

“It will be strange not having any seniors, but returning slew of players and juniors and sophomores who have an idea of how to contribute,” said Crescenta Valley coach Tyrashya Peterson, whose team will stay in Division III. “They all had a lot of playing time last season and I’m confident in their abilities and for us to have a positive year.

“Arcadia just keeps winning league and Burroughs is quite the contender. We want to be right there with them.”

The Falcons return a core that includes junior goalkeeper Phoebe Barnes, junior midfielder Amy Rowe and sophomore forwards Chloe Ataya, Dana Ryan, Julianna Cheney and Ashlin Cuesta.

Ataya took the league by storm, finishing with 17 goals and picking up an All-Area nod.

GLENDALE

Perhaps the biggest local surprise last season was Glendale, which finished fourth in the Pacific League and qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2004. Glendale (9-9-3, 4-6-2) defeated Summit, 2-0, in a Division V wild-card contest before falling, 2-0, to South Pasadena, which won the division crown, in the first round.

Now, the Nitros will look to build off what they accomplished last season and count themselves among the contenders to win league and go deeper in the playoffs.

“It’s great because we have most of our team returning,” Glendale coach Victor Aquino said. “I think we can definitely be a strong contender, both in league and the playoffs. We just want to keep on pushing and we’ll see where things stand. I like the way we’ve been doing things to get better.”

Glendale will rely on senior defenders Rachel Fong and Leslie Flamenco, senior forward/midfielder Taylor Puno and junior forward Ella Watson, who scored eight goals last season.

Glendale will remain in Division V.

ST. MONICA ACADEMY

Things came together nicely last season for the Crusaders. St. Monica finished 10-7-1, 8-4 in the Heritage League for third place and advanced to the Division VII playoffs. St. Monica fell, 3-1, to second-seeded Wildwood in the second round.

St. Monica will look for additional success under new coach Sam Barroudi, who takes over for Martin Gonzales.

“We’ll be OK and we have around 14 players,” Barroudi said. “We have a mix of experienced players.

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“It’s just about trying to learn as much as you can and applying it to the game itself. Then you look for the positive side of things.”

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St. Monica, which will stay in Division VII, will turn to sophomore midfielder Karina Martin and sophomore centerback Genevieve Pulido.

HOOVER

Hoover will begin a new chapter in the program’s history after promoting junior varsity coach Luis Ardiano as its new coach. Ardiano replaces Sarah Dearn.

Ardiano has plenty of familiarity with the program, leading to a smooth transition.

“It’s pretty simple in already knowing many of their faces,” Ardiano said. “Still, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.

“We want to have the other teams in the Pacific League know who we are and we’re looking at shoring up our defense.”

Hoover went 2-17-1, 1-10-1 last season and finished sixth in league last season.

Hoover, which will stay in Division V, will be led by sophomore forwards Jazzmin Simmons (three goals last season) and Madeline Coppersmith.

HOLY FAMILY

Holy Family coach Sal Sarmiento will have eight returners after the Gaels went 4-13-2, 2-6-2 in the Horizon League for fifth place last season.

“We’ve been building the past three seasons and they are working hard at improving,” Sarmiento said. “We’re going to be in a competitive league again and we just have to keep on gradually improving.”

Looking to make an impact for Holy Family will be senior forward Lexi Castro, junior midfielder Maya Devora and junior forward Brianna Cindrich.

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