La Cañada High girls' soccer dominates league honors

A banner season for the La Cañada High girls' soccer team included a near sweep of the recently released Rio Hondo League awards.

The league-champion Spartans claimed the league's player of the year honor, along with the most valuable defensive player and most valuable goalie award.

"If you look at our history, this is one of the greatest years, if not the greatest," Spartans Coach Louie Bilowitz said. "We advanced to the our first-ever championship and came within a goal of going undefeated."

Junior striker Megan Decker was named the player of the year, while fullback Olivia Leyva was the league's top defender and goalie Kaitlyn Coral earned the league's top billing.

Decker proved the team's catalyst this season in scoring 16 goals and 16 assists on offense, while she often played defense in the second half of matches to bolster an already tough unit.

"I thought she was the most talented player in league from a skills standpoint," Bilowitz said. "She was moved normally to defense, otherwise her stats would have been a lot of higher.

"Megan understood what was best for the team and had no problems going back on defense."

Decker was part of a defense, anchored by Leyva, that was stout in posting 15 shutouts and allowing only 11 goals through 24 goals.

Leyva finished with four goals and two assists this season.

"Last year, Kara Lankey was our player of the year and we didn't have her this year," Bilowitz said, "but Olivia stepped up and we even gave up fewer goals this season. Olivia just won ball after ball and backs up other players."

One of the beneficiaries of that defense was Coral, a sophomore transfer from San Marino, who shined in 17 games this season, while allowing only a total of seven goals.

"The biggest stat is that we allowed four goals before she joined us and only seven in all the games after," Bilowitz said. "Having a trained goalkeeper gave our defense the ability to take risks and allow defenders like Rosie [Quezada] to play up."

Speaking of Quezada (three goals and four assists), the sophomore defender was named to the first team along with senior midfielder Katrina Davis (three goals and five assists) and junior forward Cassy Quiring (eight goals and 10 assists).

As for the second team, the Spartans merited three selections in sophomore defender Megan Reilly, junior midfielder Natalie Ragusa and sophomore forward Katherine Sheehy.

This season past, the Spartans clinched their first league title in three years by going undefeated through the regular season before eventually finishing with a 22-1-1 record and advancing to the program's inaugural CIF Southern Section championship visit.

La Cañada's only setback all season came in that title match, where the Spartans fell in overtime to St. Margaret's, 1-0.

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