League champs ready for CIF quests

GLENDALE — Having already established themselves as Pacific League, Prep League and Mission League champions, respectively, Crescenta Valley High, Flintridge Prep and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy found out Monday afternoon how they will begin their paths toward claiming the greater goal of CIF championships.

The Tologs earned the No. 3 seed in the Division I playoffs and will host Foothill, while Crescenta Valley hosts Martin Luther King in a Division II first-round matchup and Flintridge Prep welcomes Diamond Bar in the Division III tournament. All matches are scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday.

"Obviously, there are no easy games in Division I," said Tologs co-Coach Frank Pace, whose team won the CIF Southern California Division III Regionals Championships last season after advancing to the semifinals of the Southern Section Division II tournament. "The Century League is a very well-respected league. They're in with Esperanza, who's the No. 2 seed. They're certainly not gonna be intimidated by us."

Sacred Heart (16-1-1), should it get past Foothill (10-10-2), the Century League's No. 4 squad, would face either Northwood or Aliso Niguel.

Pace is confident that his team, which boasts the likes of reigning All-Area Player of the Year Natalie Zeenni and the scoring tandem of Breeana Koemans and Katie Johnson, is experienced enough not to look past anyone.

"[Foothill is] gonna be a good first-round test for us, certainly one we can't take lightly," said Pace, who added his game is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Occidental College. "Since we are tournament-tested, we have what it takes to play in a one-and-done situation.

"Success in the tournament doesn't come quickly, it's five grueling, hard-fought matches. But it can go away in 80 minutes and our kids know that."

For Crescenta Valley and Coach Jorden Schulz, they go in hosting an MLK squad (11-5-3) without too much to go on. Thus, Schulz said her team, which has been keyed all year by a Mallory Carcich and Dani Busta-led defense, will take the approach of worrying about playing its game and less what the opposition brings.

"I kinda always take the approach," said Schulz, whose team won its third straight league crown and sports a 12-4-4 record, "of if we play how we're supposed to play … then if someone beats us they deserve it cause we did everything we could."

And though MLK is a third-place team from the Big VIII League, Schulz was quick to point out that means nothing considering the Falcons went 1-1-2 against third-place Arcadia and fourth-place Burbank in league play.

"We're gonna play another league's Burbank, so don't even think about taking them lightly."

The winner will advance to Tuesday's second round where it's likely to face fourth-seeded Buena, which hosts a wild-card entrant on Thursday.

Flintridge Prep, after having won its second straight league title and first outright in program history, plays host to a Diamond Bar team that took third in the Hacienda League.

Led all season offensively by Brooke Elby and boasting an underrated Connell Studenmund-led defense, the Rebels are looking to get to the second round after falling in penalty kicks in the first round last year.

While Rebels Coach Esteban Chavez doesn't know too much about Diamond Bar, he's seen its counterparts in the Hacienda League and has been impressed.

"I would consider that probably the toughest league in our division in my opinion," he said. "One through four, [the league] is super tough. They're a super-strong third-place team."

Diamond Bar is 14-7-1, while Prep owns a 15-3-2 mark and has won five straight games. The winner will face either Cypress or Cerritos.

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