Koemans leads All-CIF group

While much of the story this season for the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy girls' soccer unfortunately centered around injuries and missing players, it very much also showcased the talents and leadership of two of its seniors and Breeana Koemans and Katelyn Almeida were recognized for those contributions on Monday afternoon with the release of the All-CIF girls' soccer teams.

Koemans was an All-CIF Division I first-team selection, while Almeida was a third-team honoree. They were joined by the Flintridge Prep defensive duo of Whitney Cohen and Abby Letts, who, like the Tologs, saw their seasons end abruptly in the first round of the playoffs, but their talents stood out enough to grab first- and third-team honors in Division III, respectively.

La Cañada also had four players make All-CIF Division VI after advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division VI quarterfinals with a 13-3-4 record.

Talia Saleh headlined the quartet, taking home first-team honors for the Spartans, who also had Natalie Ragusa selected to the second team and Haley Austin and Megan Decker chosen for the third team.

"It's a great honor," said Koemans, who tallied 15 goals and 12 assists during a season in which the Tologs finished second in the Mission League and fell in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs to Capistrano Valley in overtime. "I'm very happy."

It was Koemans' second All-CIF nod, as she gained her first after a standout sophomore season.

"She really got back to the level that she showed as a sophomore," said Tologs co-Coach Frank Pace, noting that an ankle injury at the beginning of Koemans' junior year hindered her last season. "Her skills are obvious. She's just a dynamite player. She's a real soccer player. She can create, she can finish. She can beat you from the outside, she can beat your from the inside. She's got the heart of a lion. The kid's just a champ.

"She scored big goals in big games. The kid scores goals against everybody."

Koemans also stepped up her role as a leader, as did Almeida, with the Tolog tandem leading a team that had a slew of new faces after a rash of injuries and club commitments offered up different starting lineups nearly every game.

Along with Alexa Montgomery, Almeida keyed a defense that allowed but 19 goals in 21 games and tallied eight shutouts. Almeida, who also had a goal and three assists, stepped into the spotlight with the graduation of defender Natalie Zeenni and an injury to Tera Trujillo along with Kayla Mills being moved up to forward.

"She played as well last year as she did this year, but it was more visible and move obvious," said Pace, whose team went 13-5-3. "There was a light that shined on her this year that wasn't there before. She stepped up and led us."

Prep won its third straight crown and finished 15-2-2 on the season after Chino Hills upended it in the opening round of the playoffs.

Cohen and Letts' selections reaffirmed that the Rebels' success was founded on defense, as the team notched 12 shutouts and allowed 11 goals in 19 matches.

Cohen was a junior defender who also had three assists, while Letts had three goals and five assists during her junior season.

"For us to lose in the first round and still get two All-CIF players speaks volume about the respect [the coaches] have for our team," Prep Coach Esteban Chavez said.

Saleh, who earned All-Rio Hondo League co-Most Valuable Offensive Player of the Year honors, brought a lot to the table for the Spartans on and off the field. She notched a team-high 21 assists and seven goals in her senior season, but La Cañada Coach Louie Bilowitz will miss more than her passing next year.

"The biggest loss with Talia isn't just her play, it's her chemistry," Bilowitz said. "It is very hard to replace Talia. She's as important a girl for the chemistry of a team that I've ever coached before."

Ragusa, a midfielder, was a second-team All-CIF selection as a freshman after posting eight goals and 17 assists in her freshman season.

Austin, a senior, earned third-team honors after anchoring La Cañada in net. Decker, a freshman, also made the third team with 17 goals and 11 assists.

The All-CIF results painted a perfect picture of the season, Bilowitz said.

"It shows you have two seniors who helped lead the way and you have some very good freshmen who followed suit," Bilowitz said. "In essence it's like a snapshot of the season."

-Andrew Shortall contributed to this story.

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