The Bay Valley Athletic League kicked off league play on Tuesday, with Liberty and Heritage each making a statement with big victories, as the two Brentwood schools look to make a run at each other once again. We take a look at each team as it shapes up for the league season.
The Lions made it to the semifinals of the NCS DI playoffs, losing in heartbreaking fashion to Carondelet. Only four seniors from that team graduated, putting them in an excellent position for this season.
But as their team slogan goes, it's a little bit about soccer and a lot about life. Many of the returning Lions are using last year’s experience as a learning opportunity to come back stronger in 2020. The Lions possess the record for the most consecutive BVAL girls soccer titles, and look to extend that to seven this season.
To no surprise, Liberty has endured a tough non-league schedule, playing in strong tournaments like the Madera Showcase and the National Elite Prep Showcase in Texas, reeling in a shutout victory over top ranked Berkeley.
“Our goal is to improve every time we step on the field, whether its practice or a game,” said head coach Tony Martins. “This team has to rely on one another and not put the load on just a few people. I think that needs to be emphasized for us to reach our goals.”
Standout attacking players included reigning sophomore offensive MVP Madison Del Prado, with Alexis Gutierrez — who has received interest from the Mexico Women’s National Team and Chico State commit Kailtin Carlton. Liberty’s defense is strong, with Gaby Colmenares anchoring the defense and a talented trio of goalkeepers consisting of McKenzie Maggiore, Ashley Levi and Kaelyn Adams — who will see a majority of the time guarding the net.
Heritage returns 16 players, by far the most in the BVAL.
“We’re playing quite well,” said head coach Gary LaFLeur. “This a good group and we’re starting to pull things together at the right time.”
And timing is everything with Heritage kickoff league play with a 3-1 victory over Freedom.
In the past, Heritage has been a very offensive balanced team, but this year the defense will be its biggest strength. Four year All-League player Sarah Smith is one of the leaders for not just the defense, but for the team. Returning sophomores Jayden Sanders and Sabrina Rogers contribute, with Dylan Eustachy providing support.
Tori Morfin is Heritage’s starting goalkeeper and has improved a great deal since last season.
But Heritage’s offensive production is still strong, with Kaya Scott and Makeila Yancey up top along with Renny Buchanan, who La Fleur considers to be Heritage’s best player. The Patriots most experienced group comes in the midfield consisting of Hailey Hamataka, Nela Taeb, Tiana LaFleur and Kendall Overgaard.
The last time Antioch made the playoffs was the 2013-2014 season. In Robert Olson’s second year as head coach, he hopes to end that drought.
“We want to qualify for playoffs,” said Olson. “ We want to be one of the top Antioch teams this school has ever seen. It’s a Very big possibly. We have Big skill talent.”
The Panthers are confidently coming to league play with one of its best record in history at 7-4-1, outscoring opponents 39-5 victories. An impressive statline for sure, but Antioch’s going to have to step up to the plate in league play, going up against much tougher opponents.
Freshman Devan Scheringer is Antioch’s most important player. Similar to her brother Ian — the 2019 BVAL boys’ soccer MVP— she knows how to find the net. She recorded 18 goals in non-league. The defense has been solid all season, with Malia Papalagi and MIkayla Coria anchoring the line, with Liliana Ruiz and Ashley Reitz adding strength. Another freshman that going to make an impact for the Panthers is Brianna Galindo in the central midfield.
John Zamora stepped down to pursue a new opportunity outside the Bay Area, but the Pirates program didn’t have to search too far for its replacement.
In fact, next door Renato Monroy was looking for the chance to help shape up this program. After spending three seasons at the helm on the boys side at Pittsburg High School, Monroy is making the transition to the other side of the spectrum.
“We’re trying to help them get better,” said Monroy. “There’s a lot of talent here. Nobody intended to make a change here. There is a lot of work ahead but I like challenges.”
One of Monroy’s biggest goals is to change the culture, being more win orientated instead of being trapped in in previous tastes of defeat.
Maria Rebolledo, arguably one of the better defenders in the league, continues to heal an ACL injury suffered in the spring. An estimated return time will be in February. Until then, Monroy relies on defenders Gissell Galvan Gonzalez, Jessica Longoria and Isabella Evers-Moran. Monroy adds that he is impressed with the way Melanie Rangel has done up to for Pittsburg, in addition with the assistance of attacking midfielder Jocelyn Torres.
Freedom comes into league play 1-4-1, one of its worst starts in recent memory. But Matt Oliveri notes that the team’s season can have a huge turnaround in league play.
Its going to be a tough battle for the Falcons, with opening games vs. Heritage and Liberty. This team has seen its growing pains early on with carrying a young roster.
“We’re trying our best to get them ready for this level of soccer,” said Oliveri. “The upperclassmen do a good job getting them ready. It’s a process of getting them ready for the big moments and key games this season.”
Freedom does carry veteran experience on defense with Jackie Hurtado and Sierra Knight, both who are leaders for this team. But the midfield is controlled by younger players like Jessica Kwasny and Paulina Gutierrez, with senior Autumn Oranje adding leverage. Up top, Forward Briana Garcia battled with an injury late last year but is poised for a bounce-back season her junior year. Freshman Carly Singleton has also a threat offensively for Freedom.
The Wolverines picked up some momentum with a 9-1 victory over Las Lomas right at the end of league play.
It seemed that wave carried on into league play as the Wolverines beat Antioch 3-1. Haley Dunham, Celia Villanueva and Citlaly Jauregui all scored in that game. Each one of those players is praised by first year head coach Claudio Basso.
While this is Bosso’s first season as head coach, he is very familiar with the girls not only with being an assistant coach last year, but through club soccer as well.
“We had a tough non-league schedule but these girls are getting better,” said Basso. “My whole intention is to prepare these girls for league.”
Basso notes that the scoreboards of those games do not reflect this team, which for the most part is well. With three previous players mentioned working well on offense along with Ashley Garcia holding the midfield. Clarissa Nicholas controls Deer Valley’s defense, with sophomore goalkeeper rising up to the occasion.