GLENDALE — The CIF Southern Section and Southern California Regional playoffs held some of the toughest matches the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team played all season. The nonleague portion of the Tologs' season was no cakewalk either.
But the month-long stretch of Mission League games in which the Tologs suffered their only regular-season loss, recorded their lone tie and won four matches by one goal or less, was likely as challenging as any this season. And, by the end of a season packed with triumphs, the achievement of winning the league title for the second time in three seasons stood as tall as any.
"Over a 10-game [league] season, to win that league, that's always what we measure the success of our year by," said Sacred Heart co-Coach Frank Pace, whose team went 23-2-1 with an 8-1-1 league mark and went on to win the Division I section crown and place runner-up in the Division III regional tournament.
Sacred Heart remained the top team in the Mission League this season and had the contributions of numerous individuals to thank for that, many of which earned all-league recognition, as voted on by the league's coaches.
At the top of that list were junior forward Katie Johnson, who was voted most valuable player, and senior defender Natalie Zeenni, voted the co-most valuable defensive player.
Johnson was the Tologs' most prolific offensive player, finishing with 23 goals and a career-high 12 assists on the season.
"I was really excited, I felt like I made a good accomplishment and I was proud of myself because I feel like I worked hard for that award," Johnson said. "On my team there's a lot of good players and just within my team there's a lot of competition, so I felt honored to get that award."
Johnson also led the Mission League with 24 points (10 goals, four assists).
"It is a huge honor for us, we've only had one outright MVP before," said Pace in reference to 1997 MVP Kelly Sinner. "That's really a testament to Katie's play."
Zeenni earned the defensive MVP honor, which she shared with Sherman Oaks Notre Dame's Jen Pace, for the second year in a row.
"Natalie is the latest in a long line of our defensive MVPs," Pace said of Zeenni, who has a place among past defensive MVPs Angie Torres, Lauren Bustos and Sinead Fleming. "It's sort of something we've been known for. She's the latest in a long line of great players who have distinguished themselves on the defensive side of the ball."
Zeenni, who also had a goal and an assist in league, earned a reputation as a versatile and tireless defender who could make spectacular plays, including stopping shots on goal.
"Since I kind of played center mid, I know the other defenders on the other teams are pretty good, so it feels good," Zeenni said. "I'm more excited about just winning [the league championship]. I guess the MVP thing does feel good, but I couldn't have defended everyone without my team."
First-team honors went to junior midfielder/defender Tera Trujillo, junior forward Breeana Koemans, sophomore defender Kayla Mills and sophomore midfielder Krista Meaglia.
Koemans finished the season with 12 goals and eight assists and was tied as the second-leading scorer in league with 16 points (six goals, four assists) and Trujillo, a physical and skilled defensive force, registered three goals and four assists on the season.
Mills, who also played forward in addition to being a major component of the Tologs' defense, scored five goals and assisted on three more, including one in league.
Meaglia, a playoff hero for Sacred Heart, had solid numbers overall (three goals, 10 assists) and in league (one goal, three assists).
"We tell the girls that individual honors are a reflection of team success and really while we had nine girls that were recognized, we could have had 14," Pace said. "More importantly, we all shared a league championship."
Junior defender Katelyn Almeida (two goals, two assists on the year), junior defender Alexa Montgomery (four assists, one in league) and sophomore midfielder Sarah Teegarden (one goal, two assists on the season) were named to the second team.
"That's really the big award that comes out of Mission League, the fact that we were able to win a Mission League championship," Pace said. "Because, as a team, we were able to win a championship, our kids got individual recognition."