GLENDALE — In a season that included a championship in CIF Southern Section Division I and runner-up finish in the CIF Southern California Division III Regional Championships, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team has garnered a lion's share of CIF recognition.
With the release on Tuesday of the All-CIF Southern Section selections, as voted on by the divisions' coaches, there was plenty of individual recognition showered on various Tologs, as well as on select members of the other two area teams that reached the playoffs this season, Crescenta Valley and Flintridge Prep.
Katie Johnson, Kayla Mills, Tera Trujillo and Natalie Zeenni were first-team selections for Sacred Heart in Division I, while the Falcons' Mallory Carcich and the Rebels' Brooke Elby and Connell Studenmund also earned the same honor in Divisions II and III, respectively.
Sacred Heart co-Coaches Frank Pace and Kathy Desmond were voted Division I Coaches of the Year.
"That's just a tribute to our players, all 16-18 of them," Pace said of the coaching award. "We had 16-18 kids that all made different contributions at different points of the year."
Chief among those were all-CIF players such as Johnson, a junior forward, who led the Mission League-champion Tologs in scoring with 23 goals, but also had a career-high assist total of 12.
She also had big games in the section playoffs, scoring a goal and an assist in games against Foothill and Tesoro and assisting on the game-winning goal in the team's 1-0 win over San Clemente in the section championship match.
"For Katie, it's an honor well-earned," Pace said. "The impact that Katie had for us is immeasurable on offense. One tribute to Katie is the big jump in her assists. …[She had] assists in some huge games.
"She really filled out her offensive game from just a pure scorer to someone who also created opportunities for her teammates."
Mills, a sophomore, was selected to the first team as a defender, but she also scored five goals and had three assists and Pace said she was even more valuable for her versatility over the course of the season.
"Kayla was a utility player for us this year," Pace said of Mills, who played forward when Johnson was unavailable early in the season and went to the backline when the Tologs added an extra defender to their formation later in the year. "She was a vital component of a remarkably strong defense.
"When you have an asset like that on your team, it gives coaches like me and Kathy tremendous options."
Also key to a defensive unit that allowed just 18 goals all year and posted 14 shutouts were junior midfielder Tera Trujillo and senior defender Natalie Zeenni.
Trujillo provided a physical presence and strong leadership, while also scoring three goals and four assists.
"She became a great player this year," Pace said. "She's also worked herself to become an excellent student and, by watching the strides that Tera made as a player and a student, I think she was an important role model for the rest of the girls and she took over a leadership role."
Zeenni proved herself all over again, particularly in the postseason, as a tireless defender who managed to be in position to make big plays at the most crucial times. She moved up to the midfield when needed and made three saves on shots on goal in the section playoffs.
"I think my disappointment here is that in past years CIF had always picked an offensive most valuable player and a defensive most valuable player [and] I don't' think there's any doubt that if CIF had selected a defensive most valuable player in Division I, it would have been Natalie," Pace said, "as she proved time and time again throughout not only the playoffs, but the entire season.
"I think anyone who saw Natalie play came away with great respect for the way she approaches and plays the game."
Carcich, a junior defender, scored six goals and anchored a defense that posted 13 shutouts. She was named Pacific League co-MVP after leading Crescenta Valley (12-5-5) to the league title and a first-round playoff appearance.
"She did a great job for us, she was our center back and I think she kind of helped organize our whole team from back there," Falcons Coach Jorden Schulz said of Carcich. "This was a great season for her and she has been recognized for it.
"She just had a really, really solid year. …She was very, very consistent all throughout the year and she just worked hard."
Elby, who will play at the University of North Carolina in the fall, led the Prep League-champion Rebels (17-4-3) with 28 goals scored and assisted on another nine. An explosive scorer and playmaker, Elby recorded three hat tricks and scored five goals in the season opener. She also had the team's only goal in its 3-1 loss to Ayala in the section quarterfinals.
"I don't think it's a surprise to anybody, people expect a lot from her," Prep Coach Esteban Chavez said of the senior forward. "We're a balanced team, but she is a difference-maker.
"Brooke scored a phenomenal goal against Ayala and showed why she's going to North Carolina."
As big as Elby was to the Rebels' offense, Studenmund was a critical element to Prep's defense, which surrendered 17 goals and had five shutouts.
"She just does her job and that's to defend well," Chavez said of the junior defender, who also scored two goals and had four assists. "Even when she gets beat, she makes sure she recovers by tackling or being scrappy.
"She has more technical awareness than a lot of players out there."
Sacred Heart sophomore midfielder Krista Meaglia (three goals, 10 assists), who scored the game-winner against San Clemente, and Flintridge Prep junior midfielder Kate Lyon (one goal, two assists), a strong defender, were second-team selections.
Crescenta Valley junior defender Dani Busta and Prep sophomore goalkeeper Casey Cousineau (128 saves) earned third-team honors.