Tologs want to keep that winning feeling

GLENDALE — Even after winning the program's first Southern California Division III Regional Championship title last season, there wasn't complete satisfaction.

Before winning the championship, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team let some opportunities elude its grasp. For starters, the Tologs finished second in the competitive Mission League while going undefeated and then marched to the CIF Southern Section Division II semifinals before falling in penalty kicks.

Most teams would have gladly traded spots with Sacred Heart. Then again, most teams aren't Sacred Heart.

"We finish second in league and go undefeated and then we lose to Beckman in penalty kicks," Sacred Heart co-Coach Frank Pace said. "Had we worked harder on penalty kicks in practice, then maybe we are not eliminated.

"We didn't become a very good team until we beat Saugus [in a quarterfinal match]. We have a long way to go to get back to that level. We don't feel we have any laurels to fall back on."

While the Tologs return the majority of their star-studded starting lineup, which will feature several players who will eventually compete at the NCAA Division I stage, there will be some new additions across the local landscape of girls' soccer. For example, Crescenta Valley High, Hoover, Glendale and Holy Family will have new coaches on board. In addition, Glendale Adventist Academy will field a team for the first time in its history and will participate in the Liberty League.

Sacred Heart, Crescenta Valley and Flintridge Prep all qualified for the playoffs last season. All will look return once again in February, although there will be plenty of challenges around the corner to keep them up to the task.

It's possible that Hoover, Glendale and Holy Family will be in transition mode while learning from their new coaches.

The Tologs figure to have a wealthy surplus of depth backing up standouts like midfielder Natalie Zeenni, the reigning All-Area Player of the Year, forward Katie Johnson and forward/midfielder Breeana Koemans. All three, who will attend Division I universities next season, figure to play major roles once again for the Tologs, who are ranked No. 7 in the Division I preseason poll. Johnson and Koemans finished with 55 and 54 points, respectively, last season.

There will be plenty of help on board. The Tologs return midfielder/forward Jill Jacobs, midfielders Tera Trujillo and Savannah Viola, defender/midfielder Sarah Teegarden and defenders Alexa Montgomery and Katelyn Almeida.

"We feel like we have 15 capable starters," Pace said. "Our strength is in numbers and a lot of our players are interchangeable.

"We have to prove we can win league before doing anything else. I expect a battle every place we go and that gets us ready to be competitive for playoffs. We need to be as good as our talent is and practice hard every day. That's our first objective.

"We are proud of what we accomplished in state. We have some unfinished business in league and CIF."

Crescenta Valley, which won its second Pacific League crown in a row and is ranked No. 10 in the Division II preseason poll with Westlake, will have some noticeable changes. When Reggie Rivas decided to hand over the coaching responsibilities so he could spend more time with his family, the Falcons turned to a former standout midfielder to carry the torch and uphold the program's tradition.

Jorden Schulz (Stanley) will take over the coaching job. Schulz, who served as an assistant last season under Rivas, played a large role in helping the Falcons reach the Division II championship match in 2002.

While that Crescenta Valley squad had plenty of experience, the Falcons will be turning the page and trying to write a new chapter with Schulz at the helm.

"It's been great and a lot of fun so far," said Schulz, a former All-Area member who played the game with a chip on her shoulder and earned the respect of her teammates. "Our expectations are high on a whole lot of different levels, from academics to discipline.

"When the season gets under way, we might have to make some adjustments at first. When we look at our season, we will go game by game. We have won two league championships in a row, so we are going to get everybody's best game. We want to get our players to understand that."

The Falcons lost some top-notch players to graduation, but they have some able and willing players ready to step up and defend their league crown. Returning will be midfielder/forward Jordan Royer, defenders Dani Busta and Mallory Carcich and utility player Sierra Rhoads.

Flintridge Prep came on strong toward the end of the regular season to gain a share of the Prep League title with Chadwick. The Rebels will return most of the same starting lineup, but Coach Esteban Chavez said they might lack a bit in depth.

"We are pretty much returning every starter, so we should be in good shape," Chavez said. "We are really thin and that's the problem.

"My expectations are for us to come back strong and I expect myself to be a better coach. We are still young, but we have to be patient."

The Rebels will again be able to count on forward/midfielder Brooke Elby, who tallied 12 goals last season and secured All-Area first-team honors. Also due back are forward Alina Okamoto, midfielder Kate Lyon and defender Connell Studenmund.

At Glendale, interim Coach Victor Aquino will look to turn around a program that placed sixth in the Pacific League last season. Aquino served as an assistant on the school's boys' program the past two seasons before being promoted.

Glendale should have a blend of returners and incoming freshman willing to step up and perhaps put it in contention for a playoff berth.

"I want to get them to play like a team and we want to be there in the playoff hunt," Aquino said. "They have the potential to do better and I want to get them to play like a team."

The Nitros will have midfielders Alex Udarbe and Isabella Montano back in the fold and will likely have freshman Ashley Hermosillo handling the goalkeeping chores.

Hoover, which placed seventh in the Pacific League last season, will have its third coach is as many seasons. The Tornadoes brought in Donal Kennedy, who coached Tustin's boys' team the previous two campaigns.

It might be a work in progress for Kennedy, a native of Ireland, who has coached at various levels the past 10 years. However, Kennedy said that doesn't necessarily mean the Tornadoes will sag.

"We want to be as competitive as possible against every team," Kennedy said. "If we get beat by a better team, fine.

"There's potential here for the players to grow. We don't have a lot of depth, so we want to make ourselves as balanced as possible."

Hoover will feature midfielder Isa Olvera and striker Talin Kojababian.

Holy Family will also look to go in another direction, having brought in Coach Basile Pagourtzis. While the Gaels don't possess too much varsity experience, Pagourtzis said there's plenty of time to develop.

"We have a lot of beginners," Pagourtzis said. "Some of the players have improved and are now close to being on the same level."

Holy Family will return forward Krystina Oberrhamer, midfielder Monet Estrada and sweeper/defenders Valerie Russo and Breena Russo.

Glendale Adventist will field 20 players for its inaugural season, which won't begin until Dec. 16 with a league road match against Yeshiva. Under Coach Lemar Sandiford, the Cougars don't have many players who have competed at the club level.

Sandiford said there's plusses and minuses in running a first-year program.

"We look for them to learn the basic fundamentals and use them in the games," Sandiford said. "They are gaining knowledge about the game and learning the terminology.

"It's also a little frustrating because you don't have anything to lean against and you don't have any captains coming back. Hopefully, it will be a fun experience for them and they can continue to grow."

Among those expected to make the squad are midfielders Kiana Clemons and Karla Ferando, defenders Stephanie Abandy and Victoria Osby and forward Melissa Yeghiazarian.

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