Hart girls soccer prepping for future in semifinal game vs. Mater Dei

Valencia's Abbie Rieder (22) heads the ball away from Hart's Izabel Reyes (15) as Valencia goal keeper Evan Smith, right, stays vigilant during a soccer game at Hart on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal

In Hart High girls soccer’s home CIF-Southern Section Division 1 semifinal against Mater Dei of Santa Ana this afternoon at 3 p.m., the Indians’ bench will be extended by three players – three junior varsity players.

“What we’re trying to do is get them motivated, excited for next year,” said coach Guilherme Mitrovitch, of Kendall De La Vega, Meghan Shehee and Jessica Deegan. “So they see the older girls and what it takes and what they’ve been through, how technical they are, how fast and how strong, so we’re trying to open their eyes a little bit.”

MORE: Hart girls soccer defeats Aliso Niguel, proceeds to semifinals

Last year as freshmen, Izabel Reyes, Caitlin Pieper and Kaycie Priske – all of whom spent this year on varsity –moved up from JV for the CIF playoffs.

They trained with the varsity and attended each game of Hart’s run to the Division 2 quarterfinals.

The result is depth. Prepared, confident players are then ready to fit the mold of Hart girls soccer, a perennial playoff program.

The cultivated experience should work in the Indians’ favor today against the Monarchs, a battle-tested postseason team that most recently won the CIF crown in 2015.

Mater Dei is a possession-driven team, meaning Hart will have to consistently put on the pressure and rely on the chemistry that has naturally developed.

There are seven underclassmen on the Indians’ roster this year. Sophomore Lizzie MacArthur, who scored the game-winning goal in the team’s 1-0 overtime win against Aliso Niguel of Aliso Viejo in the semifinals on Friday, is the only one with game experience in playoffs prior to this year.

But the preparation of mixing underclassmen in with upperclassmen for drills at practice, and encouraging positive interactions, has built up confidence across the roster.

“I’m sure they might get some butterflies, but … I think the fact that juniors and seniors have a lot of experience in those CIF games and even a sophomore (will help),” Mitrovitch said. “I think that that will translate into the upperclassmen helping me keep the underclassmen focused and fired up but not too anxious about it.”

At this stage of playoffs, physical toughness and sheer skill can help a team score a goal, but it’s the mental toughness that gets it to the next game.

“The team unity, the team shape, how hard the team worked together, how hard the team is battling for each other (are all factors),” Mitrovitch said. “How bad they want it, how bad they’re going to push it, push themselves through it.”

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