With its roster thinned out by injuries and players opting to devote their talents to the United States Soccer Academy last year, the St. Francis High soccer program was forced to turn to some of its younger talent perhaps earlier than it would have liked to.
While that didn't necessarily translate to the best Mission League and CIF playoff results for the Golden Knights, the experience gained by those players could be one of the team's best assets this season.
"We were a young team last year and we have a lot of those kids returning," veteran St. Francis Coach Glen Appels said. "We're excited about our numbers and we have a lot of talented kids this year."
And, while St. Francis did lose some standouts to graduation, they regained some considerable talents in forward Eric Verso and defender Jake La Porte, who led the team to a Southern California regional title in 2008 and are now returning for their senior years after playing for the Galaxy youth team last season.
Three goalies, Carranza last year's starter, Paul Dean and freshman Carl Rubschlager.
"Max Cadena was just a star for us in the back, just the heart of the team, and then Dante Ramunno in the midfield," St. Francis Coach Glen Appels said of the team's key losses. "Those guys were really the core of the team, both on the field and as leaders.
"The nice thing is, because of the young guys, a lot of guys are able to step up and I think our work ethic in the offseason has been terrific. A lot of these guys have worked hard at getting better, but I think the real dynamic now is we just have more guys than we've had. Now, we have some depth."
"It's always a huge transition the first year at the varsity level," Appels said. "I think the second year they know what top expect and they've prepared themselves al ittle bit better."
"Having them together should be great," Appels said of the Verso brothers."It's nice to have three guys who [are experienced goal scorers]."
Flintridge Prep did not qualify for the playoffs out of the Prep League last year. First-year Coach Fabrice Gautrat takes over a young team lost a lot of seniors.
We only have five or six seniors, but there's really good leadership quality there," Gautrat said. "I think that's going to be key for us helping out with all the young guys coming in.
"We have some really good players. It's very easy to coach them."