For a Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team setting forth in hopes of defending its CIF Southern Section Division I championship, there is nothing new about traveling south into Orange County.
Only this time around, the Tologs will take to the road from the onset, as they drew an opening-round contest at Capistrano Valley on Friday, upon the release Monday of the CIF playoff soccer brackets.
"It's Mission Viejo on a Friday," said Tologs co-Coach Frank Pace of making the 70-mile trip down to Mission Viejo. "It's a very tough draw, but not any tougher than last year's."
While the Tologs prepare for the road, both Crescenta Valley, which shared the Pacific League title, and Flintridge Prep, which won the Prep League crown, will host first-round games.
The Rebels host Chino Hills in Division III action, while the Falcons entertain Millikan in the Division II playoffs.
Sacred Heart (13-4-3), which is unbeaten over its last five games and coming off a 2-2 come-from-behind result against Mission League champion Harvard-Westlake, took second in its league, but is the only second-place finisher out of eight in the bracket to receive a road game.
Capistrano Valley (11-4-6) took second in the Sea View League behind third-seeded Dana Hills.
As they have been all season, the Tologs will be without injured standouts Tera Trujillo, Katie Johnson and Krista Meaglia. Also injured recently are Jill Jacobs and Savanah Viola, who are not scheduled to play Friday, though the Tologs will get back defensive starter Kendall Sandoval. In addition, though, Sacred Heart will be without freshman standout Hanna Armendariz due to commitments with the national team.
"Health-wise, it is what it is," Pace said. "It is what it has been."
Leading the way offensively is Breeana Koemans, who has 14 goals and 12 assists, while defenders Katelyn Almeida and Alexa Montgomery have also been stellar as of late.
"We like how we're playing right now," said Pace, whose team, should it advance would play Villa Park or Santa Margarita on Feb. 22 in the second round. "We're scoring goals and we're defending well."
Prep (15-2-1) has defended well all season long, recording 12 shutouts with goalie Casey Cousineau and defender Connell Studenmund.
"I really like the mentality they've had this year, I'm really happy with the way we're winning," said Rebels Coach Esteban Chavez, whose team won its third straight Prep League title. "We're coming off a great league season."
The Rebels have recorded two straight shutouts and are riding a seven-match winning streak into their opener against Chino Hills (16-4-5), which finished third in the Sierra League.
"I've seen [Chino Hills] play four times this year," Chavez said. "It's a tough, tough first-round game."
Prep made it to the quarterfinals last season and, with a win, would face La Mirada or Cypress on Feb. 22 in the second round.
Crescenta Valley (13-4-2) was upset in the first round last season and will look to avoid the same fate against Millikan (17-2-6), the Moore League's No. 3 team.
"Playing the game you can play, that's the emphasis now," said Falcons Coach Jorden Schulz, who said putting emphasis on last year's first-round loss would only add undo pressure. "It's playoff season now, so everybody's outlook should be, 'It's go-time.'"
The Falcons are coming off arguably their biggest victory of the season, a 1-0 triumph over archrival Arcadia on the strength of a late Sierra Rhoads goal, which earned them a share of their fourth straight title. However, the Falcons lost a coin flip to determine the league's top seed. CV, which has been led by the senior defensive duo of Mallory Carcich and Dani Busta, is unbeaten over its last seven games.
However, Carcich, Busta, midfielder Whitley Boller and others have had injury problems throughout parts of the season. Schulz hopes the long week will help to remedy that, though, and expects everybody will play, nonetheless.
"We do [have some injuries], but there's ways around that," Schulz said. "[The long week is] obviously beneficial to us that we have the extra time to rest. Any little bang-ups will hopefully be OK by Friday."
Should the Falcons advance, they'll likely face top-seeded Sunny Hills, which opens against a wild-card entry.
All games are scheduled for 3 p.m. starts unless both teams agree to change the time.