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Girls' Soccer Preview: La Cañada seniors expected to step up

Girls' Soccer Preview: La Cañada seniors expected to step up
Charlotte Tapp is a key returner this season for the La Cañada High girls' soccer team. (File Photo)

To challenge for the Rio Hondo League title, the La Cañada girls’ soccer team will have to overcome a number of challenges in order to regain their crown.

The Spartans graduated eight of their team’s starting 11, which included Rio Hondo League Player of the Year Mia LeClerc.

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Flintridge Prep enjoyed a breakthrough season a year ago and has its share of talent returning, while Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy will look to get back to the playoffs.

Here is a closer look at the teams.

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LA CAÑADA

With a fresh squad, Spartans coach Kevin Neumeier is looking for guidance from his two remaining starters who helped the Spartans to a deep postseason run.

“We’re just going to have to try figure it out and come together and see if our young team of sophomores can help close that gap,” Neumeier said. “We just missed out on one bad week, otherwise we would have been right there with South Pasadena.”

The Spartans fell short of retaining the league title, but embarked on a quarterfinal run in the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs. La Cañada finished with a 12-7-5 record and went 4-1-3 in the Rio Hondo League, right behind champion South Pasadena.

Senior midfielder Charlotte Tapp and senior defender Solenn Matuska, who will join the team fresh from a successful girls’ tennis season in which they helped the program win a CIF title, are expected to lead a youthful side that will hopefully contend with South Pasadena.

“It comes on them and then the rest will be a lot of young sophomores that now have the opportunity to step up and see if they can take the opportunities that they get,” Neumeier said.

Tapp returns as an all-league first-team player and Matuska was an all-league second-team pick alongside senior goalkeeper Ashley Messier.

“The players just need to step up and put the team first,” said Neumeier, whose team featured the league player of the the last two seasons. “It’s just asking [the previous players of the year] to put the team before their personal stuff and Charlotte and Solenn are no different.”

Neumeier, who’s entering his third season, said although South Pasadena will be his teams’ toughest competition, he is aware of a rising San Marino team on the prowl. The Titans finished third last season.

“South Pasadena is kind of the opposite of us,” Neumeier said. “I think they’re returning the majority of the starting team that won CIF in Division V, so they’re going to be our toughest challenge. San Marino is right there too. They were a young team last year and so they’re all a year older.”

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Neumeier is hoping the team will solidify something it lacked last year — a consistent goalscorer.

On the other end, the Spartans are looking to continue to be sound defensively, as they gave up only eight league goals and 23 overall last season.

“The younger team is going to have mistakes,” Neumeier said. “Hopefully we’ll get them out in preseason so when league comes around, we’ll be ready.”

League contention starts Jan. 5 with a home contest against Monrovia.

FLINTRIDGE PREP

For a number of seasons, the Flintridge Prep girls’ soccer team inched closer to contending for a CIF Southern Section championship.

With an abundance of talent and experience, the Rebels sealed the deal when they captured the Division III title last season. It marked the first CIF crown in program history and its left the Rebels hungry for more.

Everything came together last season for the Rebels, who played an arduous schedule that helped them win the Prep League, the Division III title and an appearance in the Southern California Regional Division III final.

Flintridge Prep (26-5-4, 10-0 in league) turned to its suffocating offense and clutch goal scorers to complete its dream season under the guidance of coach Esteban Chavez, who was named to the All-Area Girls’ Soccer Coach of the Year.

Flintridge Prep defeated Garden Grove Pacifica, 3-1, in the CIF Division III title match before falling, 3-2, to Our Lady of Peace in overtime in the regional final.

“What we did last year won’t be forgotten,” Chavez said. “We did so many tings well and we took pride in what we were able to accomplish. It took about three years in development and building an identity and you love the game if you enjoy the process.

“This year, we are going to have to stay healthy and we’ll need some luck. We do have experience and we know how to get the job done. We got better, but so did everybody else in our league and in our new division. So, we’ll see where we stand soon.”

Flintridge Prep, which scored 164 goals and won 22 straight matches last season, was moved to Division II.

The Rebels lost several key players to graduation, including Julia Gonzalez, who was selected the All-Area Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year after collecting an jaw-dropping 50 goals and 116 points.

Still, don’t expect the Rebels to be bereft of talent.

Flintridge Prep brings back standout senior forward/midfielder Helen Schaefer, a reigning All-Area selection who finished with 35 goals and 28 assists last season despite missing 12 matches because of injury.

She will be joined by senior midfielder Mika Celeste, senior defender/midfielder Caitlin Fong, senior defender Arielle Guzman and sophomore forward/midfielder Mckenna Dominguez, all of whom picked up All-Area recognition last season, and freshman forward/midfielder Kyle Oh.“

FLINTRIDGE SACRED HEART ACADEMY

Flintridge Sacred Heart put together an impressive regular season, culminating in winning its first Mission League championship since 2011. The joy from claiming the league crown was brief after Flintridge Sacred Heart (10-5-4, 5-1-2) squandered a late two-goal lead and lost to Valencia Valencia, 3-2, in the first round of the Division II playoffs.

The Tologs lost a few key players to graduation, including Amethyst Trang, the league’s most valuable player who earned All-Area and All-CIF accolades.

It’s possible Flintridge Sacred Heart will be rebuilding part of its squad this season.

“We lost our whole defensive unit from a season ago, so we’ll be young back there while we look for the next wave of talent,” Flintridge Sacred Heart coach Mark Snashall said. “I think we’ll be competitive and there’s going to be a very high learning curve for the freshmen. I think we’ll be fine up front.”

The Tologs, who are now in Division III, bring back standout junior forward Lauren Bolte and senior forward Jillian Willis. Bolte picked up All-Area honors last season after contributing eight goals and eight assists.

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