Six net All-CIF honors

GLENDALE — Most athletes might be satisfied being bestowed with all-league honors. Anything more might be considered a windfall.

For six local boys' soccer players, their presence on the field proved to be a bonus and their bodies of work were recognized.

After reaching the quarterfinals in their respective divisions, three St. Francis High and three Crescenta Valley players received All-CIF recognition after the CIF office unveiled its seven division lists Tuesday afternoon.

Mark Verso, Eric Verso and Jake LaPorte of St. Francis were named to the Division I team after helping St. Francis finish second in the Mission League, while Crescenta Valley's Pavle Atanackovic, Alex Berger and Salar Hajimirsadeghi received recognition in Division IV after playing key roles in the Falcons winning their second Pacific League championship in a row.

The Versos were named to the first team and LaPorte was placed on the third team. Atanackovic earned a spot on the first team, while Berger and Hajimirsadeghi were selected to the second and third team, respectively.

For Mark Verso, he couldn't have asked for a better season. The sophomore forward was tabbed the Mission League's Offensive Player of the Year after finishing with 22 goals and six assists for 50 points.

Sharing All-CIF accolades with his older brother meant something more.

"Playing with my brother has been a great experience," Mark Verso said. "Being named All-CIF with him is even better.

"It's a great honor to get this award because there are a lot of incredible players that come out of the division. I wanted to be an impact player and I had to do that by coming out and playing hard."

Eric Verso, a senior forward and a former All-Area Player of the Year who will attend Stanford, endured a tough season in which he battled a nagging hamstring injury. However, he managed to register 11 goals and two assists in parts of eight matches.

The elder Verso also netted four goals in three playoff matches.

"It's definitely an honor despite playing in a small amount of games," Eric Verso said. "To be recognized for all of my accomplishments and playing through the injury made it real special.

"It was not really a goal to get All-CIF. I had higher goals, like winning a CIF or Southern California Regional championship. It's great to get this along with my brother. I'm really proud of him because he worked so hard during the offseason. He worked hard to get All-CIF and he's got a bright future ahead of him."

St. Francis Coach Glen Appels said the Versos clicked in the few times they shared the field.

"Eric missed most of the season, but he did so well in the playoffs," Appels said. "To not be on all-league, but on All-CIF is unusual.

"We knew about Mark's potential. He worked hard in the offseason and he came back even stronger."

Atanackovic, who was selected as the Pacific League's most valuable player, finished with a team-high 33 goals and 70 points. It was Atanackovic's first All-CIF selection in soccer, just a few months removed from securing All-CIF first-team honors in football at placekicker.

Atanackovic, a junior forward, had plenty of big performances throughout the campaign for the Falcons.

"It shows that I put a lot of hard work and practice into getting better," Atanackovic said. "It was one of my goals [to get All-CIF], and it's all paid off."

Crescenta Valley second-year Coach Kiel McClung said Atanackovic provided a spark for the Falcons, who constantly looked for him to come through with a big goal in a close match.

"Pavle, with the year that he had, deserves to be on the first team," McClung said. "You can see it in his eyes that he wants to compete and he can do so many things well."

Atanackovic, Berger and Hajimirsadeghi became the first players in the program's history to pick up the prestigious accolade.

"It's great to get three," McClung said. "In the school's weight room, there's a list of former players who have made All-CIF in each sport.

"There were no boys' soccer players there and I gave them a hard time. I asked the players who will be the first players from our team to get All-CIF?"

Berger, a junior midfielder, proved to be the glue for the Falcons, often solidifying the team's transition play and making crisp passes up field. He finished with four goals and 15 assists.

"He just had a great season," McClung said. "His 15 assists shows the kind of player he is.

"A lot of our attack was generated from him and he just created so much for us."

The Air Force-bound LaPorte, a senior, proved to once again be a reliable defender for a St. Francis after a season away due to club play. The Golden Knights recorded five shutouts, including one against second-seeded Ventura in a second-round playoff contest.

"Jake's return to us was enormous," Appels said. "He was our most experienced defender."

Hajimirsadeghi, a junior midfielder, collected six goals and eight assists while providing support for Berger.

"I'm really excited for him to get All-CIF," McClung said. "He does the dirty work for the team and played a pivotal role in the team success."

La Cañada, which advanced to the Division V quarterfinals, had a pair of senior forwards named to the first team in Cameron Meeker, the reigning All-Area Player of the Year, and Matthew Cannata.

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