Standing over the goal she once protected, Kristine Cato reflected on her year and the awards that have been heaped on her since the season ended.
“It’s really satisfying,” said the mild-mannered goalkeeper.
A couple of months have passed since the CIF-SS playoffs and Cato has been receiving kudos and awards left and right.
Rio Hondo MVP.
And now All-Area Player of the Year, as decided by the La Cañada Valley Sun, Burbank Leader and Glendale News-Press.
Her numbers were out-of-this-world ridiculous. In case you didn’t see, she dominated the net and the Rio Hondo league, getting 371 saves, 100 more than the area’s second best.
She never allowed more than double digits in goals in a game and averaged less than four goals allowed per game.
In the CIF-SS Division III playoffs, she was the only goaltender to hold Poly (Riverside), the eventual champs, to under six goals. She had 20 saves in that game.
“In the games that really counted,” her coach, Steve Silversparre, said, “she really stepped up [and played] a big game.”
Her amazing big-game performance aside, Cato’s influence was pervasive.
What defined La Cañada’s season wasn’t her defense, it was the opportunities she created for her offense.
“She allowed us to run a lot of different zone defense,” Silversparre said. “[Because of her], we were able to counter more, and to counter a lot quicker. We would force bad shots to help us counter quicker.”
How would this team have done without her?
“It would have been different,” Silversparre said, smiling.
Cato really hit her stride in January, when the team went on a 13-3 run.
The Spartans began the month with an 8-0 shut out of Beverly Hills in the Western Tournament, then went on to beat J.W. North, Saddleback and La Salle.
They ceded no more than five goals in a match the entire month, the exception being that one time in the victory against South Pasadena, 10-6.
Cato had her revenge later, though, as the Spartans took down South Pasadena for their final league game, 5-1.
Heading into the CIF-SS playoffs, there was a sense of cautious optimism. A 10-9 overtime victory in the first round against Los Altos propelled the team to the second round.
The team met its match in that round, though, as Poly shut them out, 5-0, despite Cato’s work.
The team finished 24-6 overall and a perfect 8-0 in league.
Silversparre, who was an assistant on Pat Klune’s team last year, has noticed a few differences between last year’s team and this year’s, most notably the difference in team chemistry.
“This year, all the girls came together; they played together; they were all friendly to each other,” Silversparre said. “It just made the games a lot easier.
“The seniors, Kristine included, stepped up and put [last year] aside and just said, ‘we have a common goal this year, let’s come out and win league and let’s play.’”
And they did just that.
“Winning league was definitely huge for us,” Cato said. “Being a ... team helped us accomplish that.”
Cato’s days of protecting La Cañada High’s net are now over. She graduates in June and has received a full scholarship to attend University of Southern California and play goalkeeper for their women’s water polo team.
“For college,” she said, “I’m just going to focus on doing the best I can.”