At the conclusion of the Mission League girls’ soccer season, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy came up one goal short of sharing the league crown.
Though the Tologs were forced to settle for second, Flintridge Sacred Heart was bestowed the league’s highest individual honor.
Tologs senior defender Kayla Mills was recently voted the Mission League Most Valuable Player, while senior midfielder Sarah Teegarden was the Mission League Defensive MVP.
Joining their fellow Tologs on the all-league honor roll were seniors Savannah Viola and Krista Meaglia and sophomore Hanna Armendariz, who were first-team selections, while seniors Kendall Sandoval and Hailey James, along with junior Dani Garcia, received second-team acclaim.
As is customary with Flintridge Sacred Heart soccer, the Tologs found out about their league accolades at the team banquet.
“I was really surprised,” said Teegarden, who, along with many of her teammates assumed Mills, the team’s center back, would be named defensive MVP. “Everyone was assuming it was her.
“It’s definitely a huge honor and I was definitely shocked.”
Of course, Mills was awarded the league’s top prize of Mission League Most Valuable Player.
“I’m blessed and I’m thankful when I get these things,” Mills said. “It took me by surprise.”
Both were surprises well-earned, according to Tologs first-year Coach Cesar Hidalgo, whose team tied Chaminade in the league finale and would’ve shared the league title with Harvard-Westlake with a victory.
“I think it’s that combo that led us to where we are,” said Hidalgo, whose team went 15-2-4 and 7-1-2 in the Mission League for second place before it was upset in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs. “I think it was a deservable achievement for both of them.”
Mills, who also earned first-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I notice, had an abundance of talent that easily shined through in many of the Tologs’ games during a season in which the Tologs allowed 17 goals in 21 games and posted nine shutouts.
And though the league champion more often than not houses the league MVP, Mills clearly shined bright enough to garner MVP acclaim.
“I think everybody realized at the end that she was a solid player,” Hidalgo said, “an MVP-type player.”
Mills, who’s headed to play at USC where she was recruited as a forward, admitted that playing throughout the season on the backline wasn’t her first choice, but her motivation was to do it for the best of her team and her teammates.
“I’m not gonna lie, it was a bit frustrating,” said Mills, who added four goals and two assists. “But I knew I needed to do it for my teammates. It’s just another opportunity to learn about another position.”
And it was a situation that saw Mills and Teegarden develop into a formidable combination that solidified the defense in the midfield and backline and facilitated the offense from the back to the midfield and up.
“Sarah’s an amazing soccer player, I’d go into battle with her any time,” Mills said. “We do have a connection, we trust each other.
“She deserves every accolade she got.”
Teegarden, who’s headed to play at Wake Forest, admitted, though she played well as a junior defender, her senior season bestowed a far better performance as she played her natural midfielder position.
“I definitely feel more comfortable in the midfield,” said Teegarden, who also had four goals and two assists.
Garnering defensive MVP honors, in addition to a second-team All-CIF nod, was a fitting curtain call to a wildly successful varsity tenure for Teegarden.
“I felt really accomplished getting this award,” she said, “and it was a great way to end it.”
Viola was arguably the Tologs’ most improved player and an All-CIF third-team pick who tallied eight goals and a team-high 12 assists.
“She knew she had to step up,” Hidalgo said. “Having her play that [go-to offensive] role, I think made her a more successful player.”
Meaglia, who will forever go down in Tologs lore as the player who scored the only goal in Sacred Heart’s historical CIF Division I championship win in 2011, came off an entire season away due to a knee injury. She posted three goals and nine assists, but her impact was felt far beyond statistics, as she was often the player who began an offensive sequence and made the pass before the assist.
“I think she executed almost to perfection,” said Hidalgo of his offensive midfielder. “She did a fantastic job playing a supporting role for all the forwards. She was assisting from the very beginning.”
The last Tolog to make her way on the first team was Armendariz, who totaled eight goals and eight assists and was arguably her team’s most dynamic offensive presence.
“She can be a player that’s unstoppable,” said Hidalgo of his sophomore forward. “I believe that next year that she’ll be a player that opens a lot of eyes. ... She’s a tremendous talent.”
Garcia, a junior goalie, posted 10 shutouts on the season, made 78 saves and allowed only 17 goals. Sandoval, a senior defender, wrapped up her fine career as a Tolog, looking to continue at New Mexico. James, a senior forward, scored nine goals and added an assist.