Hart girls soccer defense shutting Foothill League teams down in historic fashion

Hart girls soccer's back line From left to right: Kaycie Priske, Jensen Shrout, Isabella Penaranda, Rachel Melvin, Jessica Deegan. Ryan Posner/The Signal
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Perfection in the Foothill League has become the status quo of late for the Hart girls soccer team.

It’s been 45 games and four league titles since they last loss a league game.

But they’ve accumulated an unprecedented level of success to open this year’s league slate.

They’ve yet to allow a single goal – five league wins, five shutouts.

It’s a feat that’s yet to be accomplished in Guilherme Mitrovitch’s five years as the team’s coach.

“It’s not easy to go into this league and not concede anything,” Mitrovitch said. “The defense needs to be organized. They all have to be on the same page with communication, one-on-one defending, good small-group defending, positioning themselves.”

Mitrovitch rarely makes substitutions to his back line, which includes seniors Rachel Melvin and Isabella Penaranda, sophomore Jessica Deegan, freshman Jensen Shrout and junior Kaycie Priske at goalkeeper.

Hart’s Rachel Melvin (21) kicks the ball away just as Valencia’s Hannah Mateus (12) rushes in during a soccer game at Hart on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal

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“We’re all very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far but it really just comes down to us doing our job,” Melvin said. “As a whole, I think it comes from all of us working together, especially without having us all playing together yet. This is our first year as group. I feel like we have some great chemistry.”

The defenders were quick to throw praise onto midfielders like Charlize Martinez and Megan Sheehe for keeping one-on-one attacks at a minimum. Penaranda also complimented the back-line’s ability to keep its shape.

“When (the midfielders) work hard, we all want to work hard too because they do more running than any of us,” Penaranda said. “We don’t want them to do any more running than they have to.”

Melvin pointed out that it’s a bit uncommon for Hart to have so much youth out of its center backs (Shrout and Deegan). It doesn’t hurt having captains like Melvin and Penaranda working on the edges and attacking, though.

“They’ve been really good role models, especially with one-on-one defending and being actual leaders on the field,” Deegan said. “They also are really good in getting it to the attack. Everything they do, we can take and learn and try to work into our own game.”

The group certainly acknowledges the streak and it serves as a source of pride for a positional grouping that’s sometimes recognized more for what it isn’t able to accomplish.

“It’s exciting, but I think we just try to take it half by half and game by game and not think too far into the future,” Priske said. “We try to stay consistent throughout.”

Hart opens the second half of league play Friday against a Golden Valley team that it beat 5-0 on Jan. 9. The Indians have already made some history regarding their shutout streak, so the objectives are pretty simple from here on out.

“Try to stay humble and consistent,” Shrout said. “And, of course, we want to keep the streak alive. This league is so competitive, so every game kind of brings a new challenge for us.”

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