Over the past seven seasons, College of the Canyons women’s soccer team and coach Justin Lundin have created a winning tradition that is unheard of and a feat that few accomplish at the junior college level.
Heading into his 10th season at the helm, Lundin is looking to win his eighth straight Western State Conference title and finish off strong in the playoffs.
“Our sights every year is to win conference first and foremost,” Lundin said. “Get that locked up and once you get into playoffs you are playing good teams at that point, so it often comes down to the way that the game goes, and we have been very unfortunate in playoffs. We have been beaten in playoffs and then we have had games that we should have won, so we are hoping to peak this year at playoffs.”
Winning his sixth WSC Coach of the Year Award and fourth in a row, Lundin and the Cougars finished the 2017 season 17-2-1, including 8-0 in the Western State Conference East Division.
Falling in the first round of the 2017 California Community College Athletic Association Southern California Regional Playoffs to L.A. Pierce College in penalty kicks, the Cougars come into this season assured that they will have just as good of a year in 2018.
With the departure of Angel Quintero, last season’s WSC East Division Player of the Year, sophomore forward Kylia Bradford will be the next option, after leading the team in scoring with 12 goals and in points with 29.
“I just want to be focused out on the field,” Bradford said. “(Quintero) had a lot of speed and she always kept going so I have to expand my mental game and hopefully I can fill the spot that she left.”
With newcomers Sarah Wong, an incoming freshman from Kailua, Hawaii, and Valencia High School product Gracell Magnaye, the Cougars should be just as potent offensively as ever.
“We are going to find out real soon,” Lundin said. “We have a couple players out with injuries and once they get back that will help with the attack. But Bradford was our leading goal scorer last year and along with Sarah Wong from Hawaii and Gracell Magnaye from Valencia High School, they give us a lot of speed and dynamic players up top.”
The Cougars return a duo of explosive and experienced midfielders with Alondra Solis and Crystal Sanchez. Jennifer Roney and Kayla Brennan will sit out the season after both of them tore their ACLs in last year’s playoff game.
Solis was second on the team with nine goals and looks to be an integral part of the Cougars offensive attack with her knack for scoring and elusiveness.
One of the Cougar’s team captains, Sanchez returns to lead the Cougars after dishing out a team-high in assists (6) and ended last season second in points (20).
“I feel like we are strong at midfield and we have been strong for the past couple years,” Solis said. “…and I feel like it hasn’t gone away and I feel like we are going to do good. We control everything and open up the field for sure.”
With impact players like Sanchez, Solis and Bradford, Lundin will rely heavily on their leadership to usher in the team’s newcomers and help them transition into the team.
“I never want them to feel left out,” Sanchez said. “Obviously they are only here for two years so you just have to always communicate with them and interact with them. You should never leave anyone out because these are your teammates, these are the people that you will be spending like a whole year with.”
Transfers Giselle Alvarado and Danielle Yanez seem to be fitting into the 2018 squad so far, but will be asked to provide some up-tempo energy.
“We had some good transfers,” Lundin said. “Alvarado transferred in from Cal State Northridge, she’s a very strong player that I think will do very well. Danielle Yanez transferred from Chico State and she’s going to be strong for us too.”
In the back, the Cougars return center back and one of last year’s captains, Cierra Crawford, as well as Alexa Thornblad and Marilyn Cabrera, to form a stout and experienced defense.
The No. 12-ranked Cougars played their first of two scrimmages yesterday and will officially kick off the season on Thursday, August 30 against Cañada College at Ventura College in the Nike Soccer Community College Showcase from August 30-31.
“We don’t feel any pressure,” Lundin said. “We come out and do the best we can. We always know that we are going to come out prepared and that’s the biggest thing. As long as you prepare to the best of your ability the cards are going to fall where they may, but we always know that we are going to be prepared.”