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Lacrosse Preview: Crescenta Valley girls looks for more league glory

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Crescenta Valley High’s Madeline Heeg and the Falcons will look to win a second straight Pacific League championship.
(Tim Berger | Staff Photographer)

There’s been a steady climb throughout the three-year existence of the Crescenta Valley High girls’ lacrosse team.

The Falcons made their inaugural appearance in the playoffs two seasons ago before capturing the Pacific League championship for the first time last season.

Crescenta Valley coach Boz Crowther would like to see the trend keep heading in the right direction.

“We like where we’re going right now and we haven’t done too badly,” said Crowther, whose team fell in the first round of the United States Southern Section North playoffs last season. “The idea is to keep setting goals and that they are attainable.

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“We have a group that’s super-competitive and we’d definitely like to win league and make some noise in the playoffs. You give them a challenge and you do everything to rise to it.”

Crescenta Valley lost 11 seniors to graduation, including all-league stalwarts Abby Sheklow, Leah Crowther and Sabrina White. However, the Falcons have some key returners in place to provide leadership in senior defender Kimmie Foster, senior midfielder Madeline Heeg and junior attackers Lexi Ballard and Peyton Marshall. Freshman Phoebe Crowther will be the starting goalkeeper. Foster, Heeg, Ballard and Marshall received all-league accolades last season.

Boz Crowther expects the league, which will feature Glendale, La Cañada, Westridge and West Ranch, to be difficult.

“The rest of the league is getting better,” Crowther said. “We know that and we’ll have to be as good as last year, if not better. I think you’ll see that.”

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Glendale will start its eighth season, all under coach Joe Campbell.

Glendale finished third in the Pacific League before losing in the first round of the North playoffs last season.

Glendale brings back senior attacker Ericka Lopez, senior defenders Stephanie Herrera and Aaliyah Massey, junior defender/midfielder Rachel Fong, junior goalkeeper Lili Barker and junior midfielder Xcaret Salvador. Lopez, Fong and Salvador were bestowed with all-league honors last season.

“I think you’ll see us contending for league with CV and Westridge,” said Campbell, who also coaches the boys’ team. “We’ll have to fight to contend with them and we will.

“We have a really good group of juniors and seniors. It will be as deep a team as we’ve had in some time.”

St. Monica Academy will turn to new coach Brian Hughes. Hughes takes over for Jim Hagen.

The Crusaders, who started their program last season and are a freelance squad, will be led by sophomore midfielder Katie Golbranson.

“I want our players to just go out there and have fun,” said Hughes, who coached at Franciscan College in Ohio and Transylvania University in Kentucky. “There’s a lot of life lessons to learn from the sport and I believe you play as you practice.

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“We want to get the players, especially the new ones, fully engaged and buy into the team and what we’re teaching.”

On the boys’ side, Glendale advanced to the playoffs last season. The Nitros, an independent team, lost in the first round after reaching the playoffs for the first time in the program’s four-year history.

The Nitros appear to have plenty of leadership in place with the return of senior attackers Jason Camacho, Joshua Kerr and Brendan Marquardt, senior midfielder Angel Ruiz and junior midfielder Archawin Nimamong.

“We made the playoffs last year and I think that’s changed the attitude of the players,” Campbell said. “As you get better, the commitment level goes higher.

“We have some very good players coming back, but we’re just not as deep this year. I’ve seen some development with some of the new players and I think we’ll be OK on defense and at goalkeeper.”

St. Francis missed the playoffs last season after qualifying for the postseason in 2016. The Golden Knights finished fifth in the competitive Mission League last season.

St. Francis second-year coach Jared Little will look to get the Golden Knights back on track with a group that includes senior defender Sean Barkley, junior attacker Spencer Boyle, junior midfielder Jacob Buntich, sophomore defender Miles Jackson and sophomore goalkeeper David Baker.

“Our practices have been good and we are light years ahead of where we were compared to last season,” said Little, who won NCAA Division I championships at the University of Virginia in 2003 and 2006. “There was a culture change last year and I put in a new system.

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“We have had a lot of our players compete in spring and summer leagues and on travel teams in order to get some more experience. They were able to experience different levels of play. We have 22 kids who will be on the team and I think we’ll see some special things happen. Our defense will be our strong point and you’ll see us in a lot of close games.”

charles.rich@latimes.com

Twitter: @TCNCharlesRich


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