This year, head coach Randy James has his team ready for a long run. While the Patriots lost some top players, notably Ari Gordon, they still boast a strong lineup. Seniors Kayla Hanojosa and Kaylie Moser join junior Jamie Baron as leaders on offense. James feels that his defense, led by sophomores Sarah Toelkes and a Haylee Grant, will help goalies Kaitlin Hoyle and Addison Orloff keep balls out of the Heritage net.
“The group that’s coming in is as good, at times even better, than what we had last year,” James said. “I haven’t seen enough from us or from the other teams to make a big prediction. We’re trying to get better each day, each game, focusing on what we can control.”
James expects the Patriots’ strong group of defenders to be what carries them this year, and said they need to improve at creating opportunities and scoring goals.
“This is a pretty good group that likes to be around each other,” James added. “That doesn’t happen all the time when you get teams and put the mix of players around each other. They like doing things together; not just practice and games.”
Heritage’s league title ended Liberty’s two-year run at the top of the BVAL standings. And yet the Lions’ season was far from a failure. The young team earned a playoff berth before seeing their season end at the hands of Clayton Valley.
Last season’s version of the Lions fielded 15 players in their freshman and sophomore years, so they’re not losing much from last year’s successful team.
One of their returning players is senior Mikayla Farber. Her play earned her the BVAL’s MVP award. Mikayla’s sister, Brianna, was also a first-team all-league selection. Goalkeeper Gabby Ciccollela and midfielder Paige Dudek look to build on solid sophomore seasons.
The Falcons put an experienced group of players onto the field last year. Like Heritage and Liberty, they made the playoffs but were defeated in the opening round. Still, it’s hard to imagine this season being any tougher on Freedom than last.
The Falcons lose BVAL offensive MVP Krystal Espindola and goalie Jessica Deno from last season. Despite the losses, the team plays its home games on a normal schedule – unlike last year. Repairs to the Falcons’ field last season forced both the boys and girls teams to play odd schedules and constant road games.
Seniors Kiki Simmons and Angel Goss will assume greater leadership roles in this year’s version of the Falcons.
The Wolverines lose few players from last season’s team. One of the returners is senior Haylee Wiggins, whose 12 goals last season more than doubled the output of her team’s next-highest scorer.
Also returning for Deer Valley are sophomore Sidne Spencer, the second-leading scorer on last season’s team, and Kara Leffle, the Wolverines’ primary goalie a season ago.
The name of the game at Antioch is youth. Only three players from the Panthers’ 2010-11 team graduated. While leading-scorer Jessica Huerta graduated, the second and third scorers return – and will play for Antioch next year.
Junior Alicia Palma and sophomore Kailee Soares will lead the Panthers’ attack. Their youth is still one of the team’s greatest assets, as defender Susan Klapperbein and goalkeeper Sandra Freeman are the team’s only seniors. Klapperbein and Freeman join Soares as the Panthers’ captains.
Sophomore Vannessa Ortiz has also buried two goals for her team in the early season.
Like Antioch, the Pirates boast a young team that experienced little to no turnover from last year.
Leading scorer Camille Thompson returns for Pittsburg. Joining her is Daisy Vasquez, tied for second in goals scored a season ago. Both players have plenty of time to improve, as Thompson is a sophomore and Vasquez is a junior.
Junior Sandy Padilla also returns for the Pirates, commandeering the net. She managed two shutouts a season ago.