If there’s any pressure on United Women’s Soccer’s Santa Clarita Blue Heat after winning a national title last season, the results so far this year aren’t letting on.
The pro-am Blue Heat shut out the So Cal Crush 4-0 and Real Salt Lake Women 1-0 in their first two games.
“I think after you win a national championship there is always a little bit of pressure, but we as a coaching staff, we try not to let them think or focus on that,” said coach Guilherme Mitrovitch.
“Obviously every team wants to come and beat us, but we’ve got to focus on us and what we can do, what we can control. And hopefully be able to do it again.”
The pair of wins also has shown Santa Clarita’s defensive power.
Kelsey Gudgeon, an All-UWS center back, returns this year as well as All-UWS defender Yadira Toraya and goalkeeper Jovani McCaskill. Newcomers include Florida State defenders Olivia Bergau and Natalia Kuikka.
“We’ve got quality positions, but I think in our defense, in particular, we have a big source of experience with some youth, but high- level soccer players,” Mitrovitch said.
UCLA redshirt freshman Chloe Castaneda and Viviana Villacorta will bolster the midfield as returners. Villacorta has added U.S. Soccer U-20 Women’s National Team experience and a UCLA commitment to her resume since last season.
Joining them as a Blue Heat newcomer will be Olympic bronze medalist Lauren Sesselmann, a former member of the Canadian Women’s National team.
Offensively, top-scorers Julia Hernández, who scored five goals and had one assist last season, and Kodi Lavrusky, who had five goals, return for the Blue Heat.
Lavrusky scored the lone goal in the club’s 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Sunday.
Deyna Castellanos, another Florida State player who previously represented Venezuela at the 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica, will be another valuable striker.
“We did return some players, but there’s definitely a lot of talent going forward,” Mitrovitch said. “We have some really fun players to watch.”
The Blue Heat, who compete in the UWS West Conference, will have added competition this year with the addition of a Midwest Conference. Given the realignment, the club will face several new opponents this year.
“I’m excited that there’s more teams, and I want to the league to keep growing,” Mitrovitch said. “But I think we’ve got to think about our conference and if we handle our conference like we did last year, then we can think about the teams in the Midwest or the East Conference. Right now we’re focused on the West Conference, which is very challenging as well.”
Three locals are new additions to this year’s squad. Kassie Matthews (Hart), Alyssa Aguilar (Canyon) and Chloe Edwards (SCCS) each joined the team according to uwssoccer.com’s roster. Hailey Phipps (Saugus), Shasta Fisher (Saugus), Rebecca Harrison (Valencia) and Sarah Cipperley (Canyon) are returners.
Santa Clarita competes at The Master’s University. Its next game is Saturday at 6 p.m. at Calgary Foothills in Alberta, Canada.