Spartans Rise to ESPN list

The statistics that Cameron Meeker and Matt Canatta put up during their senior seasons speak for themselves.

The two dynamic senior forwards for the La Cañada High boys' soccer team accumulated more than 60 points this season between them. Meeker scored 24 goals and notched 19 assists, while Canatta netted 21 goals and 20 assists.

Those numbers were good enough to get the pair noticed on the state level, as Meeker and Canatta both were named to the ESPN Rise all-state list for the winter season.

The news came as a complete surprise to Canatta, who didn't hear his name was on ESPN until he received a call about this accomplishment.

"I went and I looked it up and saw it," said the University of Hartford-bound Canatta. "It's pretty cool."

"Those two boys getting recognized at that level is a great accomplishment," La Cañada Coach Barry Ritson said. "Both of their stats speak for themselves this year. When you watch Matt and Cam play, there's so much more to their play than goals and assists."

Both players were capable of dominating games, and they did so in different ways. Canatta was a quick, elusive play-maker and Meeker was a big, strong forward that spread the ball around.

"Matt is creative and makes something out of nothing sometimes," Ritson said. "With Cam, his importance to the squad overall was so important to us, more so than just goals and assists. He brought other players into the game and that's the reason to me that he's one of the best players in the country this year. It's exciting for the boys to add this to their resume."

As satisfying as the personal accolades are, that's never been on Canatta's radar.

"To me, it's not about the personal accolades, it's how the team does," Canatta said. "It didn't really matter to me what my stats looked like, but what the team did as a whole."

La Cañada (23-1-3, 10-0 in the Rio Hondo League) finished the season with a 1-0 loss in the CIF Southern Section Division V quarterfinals against Carpentaria. Canatta called it a disappointing end after the Spartans were ranked the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Despite the loss in the quarterfinals, Ritson said the recognition from ESPN Rise is a reminder that La Cañada is back to being a school with a strong soccer culture, like when Louis Bilowitz coached the boys team in the 1990s.

"Way back then they were really known for producing great soccer players," Ritson said. "Over the last two years we've been trying to bring that culture back. In the La Cañada area we have kids with a thirst for high school soccer. There have always been good players, but the difference the last couple of years is the kids really enjoy it and take pride in their performance for the school."

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