It’s that time of year again.
Foothill League girls soccer comes kicking and screaming into 2020 as the teams begin to go head-to-head on Tuesday.
Hart is looking to continue its reign over the Foothill League after capturing its sixth straight league title last year and a 10-0 league record for the first time since 1997. This year is different, though. For the first time in his tenure, head coach Guilherme Mitrovitch will have the All-SCV and All-Foothill League Player of the Year returning to his squad in Alyssa Irwin.
“We’re very excited to return the player of the year,” Mitrovitch said. “I thought she was outstanding last year in league. She has the potential to make another big impact this year. It’s her senior year. She’s motivated.”
The Indians also have a score of All-SCV players returning this year. Jensen Shrout and Stefani Woll received first-team honors and lockdown defender Jessica Deegan was named to the second team.
Hart is 11-1-2 heading into league play this season after a 4-0 win over Simi Valley Dec. 28 in Newhall. They will open up league play against Golden Valley at home at 3:15 p.m. on Jan. 7.
“We’re looking forward to league,” Mitrovitch said. “I thought we had a very solid preseason. We just want to start with the right foot and have a solid start and try to carry that on throughout league. A strong start is very important.”
The Grizzlies will head into Newhall with a 4-3-1 record. They have already improved from last year’s three-win season and also aim to improve in league play and secure at least one win against another Foothill school.
A key to Golden Valley collecting that Foothill win will be starting on the right foot on defense and being aggressive on its side of the pitch. The Grizzlies have lost every game in which they allowed their opponent to score multiple times this season. They have either won or tied games where their opponent scored one or fewer goals.
Mariah Garcia returns to Golden Valley for her junior year as one of the team captains from the midfielder position. Last year she led the Grizzlies with five goals and three assists to land her on the All-SCV Second Team.
The Vikings and Centurions will be kicking off at the same time as the Hart-Golden Valley game to start league play. Valencia (4-4-1) returns two of its key players. Isabelle Goralsky was named to the All-SCV First Team last year. She was a key component to the Vikings’ offense as they competed in the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs.
Quinnlan Reynolds also returns for the Vikings this year. Her contributions throughout last season landed her on the All-SCV Second Team, especially after she scored Valencia’s only goal in the playoffs.
Saugus will host the Vikings after earning a 5-3-1 record in the preseason. Their record places them at second in the Foothill League before facing off against the other five Santa Clarita teams.
The Centurions had a collection of All-SCV players last season, but only one did not graduate in 2019. Top goal scorer Shaina Berdin is in her final year at Saugus. She is one of the most explosive offensive players to return to the team this year as she always found ways to make an attack on goal.
“Shaina’s a returning four-year varsity veteran,” said Saugus head coach Kevin Miner. “She’s very skilled and very confident in her abilities. When Shaina’s doing well, that’s a good sign for us because she distributes the ball and makes things happen. I’m excited to see what she does this year.”
Miner also believes his defense will be a force to reckon with. They have only allowed 0.7 goals per game which is second in the Foothill League only behind Hart’s 0.6 goals allowed per game.
The Centurion defense is led by senior defender Grace Seitz, who Miner believes has next-level talent written all over her.
“I’m excited for her this year because I think she could end up being the best defender in the foothill league this year,” Miner said. “She’s just phenomenal when it comes to winning the ball. I think teams are going to have a tough time doing anything on that side of the field.”
West Ranch began the year with a coaching change. Brothers Jared and Eric White, formerly head coach and assistant respectively, swapped roles at the beginning of the season. Eric took over the head coaching duties when his brother took a teaching job in Lancaster.
The Wildcats slide into league play with a 1-2-1 record. Last season, they finished second in the Foothill League after a strong second half of the season.
“We did have a really solid finish last year in league,” White said. “The second half in league, we had a really good run. Everything starts with defense with us. Not letting wins become ties and ties become losses is big for us.”
Lizeth Gutierrez will be a big returner for the Wildcats in her junior year. She was one of three sophomores to make First-Team All-SCV. She impacted West Ranch almost immediately as she made the jump from frosh to varsity soccer.
“Lizeth caught some people by surprise last year,” White said. “Lizeth is a finisher. It’s a rarity in high school soccer.”
Big-time midfielder Leanna Kane returns to the Wildcats as well for her senior season. She joined her teammate Gutierrez on the All-SCV First Team.
“Leanna is kind of our anchor on the back side,” White said. “She’s the connector between our defense and our offense. She’s strong on the ball. From her, we’re looking for a little bit of leadership, kind of stepping up into a leadership role.”
The Wildcats will end the first day of league play at home against Canyon at 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 7. The Cowboys (0-4-1) have yet to win a game in the 2019-20 campaign and will look to strike their first notch in the win column at West Ranch.
Goalkeeper Aubrey McKessy serves as a captain for Canyon this year during her senior season. The Second-Team All-SCV keeper laid out all season for the Cowboys, a team that rarely allowed its opponents to net multiple goals in a game.
Former player Milan Cabrera steps in as the Cowboys head coach this season for the first time. She was an SCV star with the Cowboys, taking her talents to the NCAA Division 1 level. The Cowboy’s last Foothill League title came during Cabrera’s senior year and she looks to bring her team back to its former glory.