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Lacrosse Preview: Glendale, Crescenta Valley girls’ squads expect to vie for league title

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Glendale High girls’ lacrosse player Rachel Fong, right, helped the Nitros win the Pacific League championship last season.
(Dan Watson)

As expected, it proved to be a two-team race in the battle to win the Pacific League championship last season between the Glendale High and Crescenta Valley girls’ lacrosse squads.

Glendale edged Crescenta Valley by one match to win league for the first time since 2014. It’s likely the two squads will be in line again to contend for league supremacy this season.

Elsewhere, St. Monica Academy will begin its third season and will have a new coach.

In boys’ competition, St. Francis and Glendale missed the playoffs last season and will attempt to get back on track with a bumper crop of more experienced players.

Here is a closer look at the teams.

GIRLS

GLENDALE

Backed by a wealth of experience and leadership, Glendale went 16-4, 4-0 in league and advanced to the second round of the U.S. Lacrosse L.A. Division playoffs last season. The Nitros bring back a good portion of their lineup in an attempt to remain atop the league and make a deeper run in the postseason under coach Joe Campbell.

“We’re not entirely focusing on trying to win league,” Campbell said. “We’d like to win league, but it’s more about playing to the best of our ability, and, if we do that, then we’ll win a lot of games. If we don’t, we won’t.

“We had very close [league] matches against Crescenta Valley and West Ranch last year, so we know there wasn’t much difference between the three teams. It was that close We know that our league is going to be that much stronger this year, so we’ll have to be ready.”

Glendale brings back standout senior midfielders Ranchel Fong and Xcaret Salvador. Fong finished with 74 goals and 100 ground balls and was named the league’s co-offensive player of the year. Salvador contributed 69 goals and 82 ground balls to earn all-league honors.

They will be joined by senior defender/midfielder Jasmin Contreras (14 goals in 2018) and senior goalkeeper Lili Barker. (194 saves). Both were bestowed with all-league recognition.

CRESCENTA VALLEY

Expect Crescenta Valley to provide another sturdy lineup in its quest to win the Pacific League title for the second time in three seasons. Crescenta Valley finished 10-5, 3-1 in league for second place and didn’t appear in the playoffs last season.

The Falcons will turn to a trio of seniors to pave the way in attackers Peyton Marshall and Lexi Ballard and defender Audrey White. Marshall registered 23 goals last season, while Ballard had 29 goals and White contributed by helping anchor the defensive unit. The group picked up all-league nods in 2018.

The prospects of having another talented team has Crescenta Valley coach Boz Crowther excited.

“We are returning a solid core and we’ll have nine seniors,” Crowther said. “All of them have been with the program since the seventh grade and have had a lot of success at the different levels.

“In order to have a chance at winning league, we’re going to have to beat Glendale. I think our chances are good to win league. We’ve made progress with our practices, even though there’s been a lot of rain, and we’ll play a very tough schedule to help us get prepared for league.”

ST. MONICA ACADEMY

St. Monica begins its third season and remains a freelance team. The Crusaders will also have their third coach in as many season with former Glendale High standout player Jenna Nance now in charge. Nance replaces Brian Hughes.

“Things have been going well,” said Nance, who graduated from Glendale in 2012. “I’m impressed with the players and their ability to absorb a lot of information about the game.

“We have a lot of younger players, so I’d like to see the program continue to grow and have the players step up.”

BOYS

ST. FRANCIS

After making the playoffs in 2016, the Golden Knights haven’t qualified the past two seasons. St. Francis finished 6-11, 1-5 for fifth place in the rugged Mission League last season.

However, the pieces may now be in place for St. Francis to make a climb in league and contend for a playoff spot under third-year coach Jared Little, who won a pair of NCAA Division I championships as a player at the University of Virginia.

“We’re loaded with a lot of sophomores and juniors and they’ve grown into their bodies,” Little said. “Things are now starting to come together after some growing pains the last two seasons.

“We were basically a junior varsity team the last two years playing at the varsity level. There’s a lot of opportunities now for our players to lead the way.”

St. Francis’ core will include senior attacker/midfielder Spencer Boyle, junior attacker Will Ferguson, junior defender Miles Jackson, junior goalkeeper David Baker and sophomore attacker Michael Lund.

GLENDALE

Glendale starts its sixth season and will be an independent team under coach Joe Campbell. Glendale missed the playoffs last season after qualifying in 2017.

Campbell, whose team finished 4-13 last season, said he’s encouraged with the mix of talent the Nitros offer.

“We have four good seniors and four or five freshmen and they can all contribute,” Campbell said. “Right now, I’d like to see us get above .500 and go from there.”

Glendale will rely on a group of senior defenders/midfielders in Archawin Nimamong, Daniel Rawlins and Juan Ruiz and senior attacker/midfielder Andrew Gallegos.

charles.rich@latimes.com

Twitter: @TCNCharlesRich