Millikan won its first back-to-back league titles since 1985-86 last year thanks in part to a pair of home wins against Poly and Wilson early in the season. The Rams will get another chance to jump on top of the league table this month as two of their first four games are against the Jackrabbits and Bruins.
“Our goals and expectations are always set high,” Millikan coach Tino Nunez said. “If we are able to grow together through every obstacle that will be thrown our way during this crazy season then I believe we can (win league again).”
Over the last eight years Nunez has built his program on strong defense and opportunistic offenses. This year is no different with twin sisters Natalie and Danielle Paulson leading the way as the two center backs. Danielle was named the Moore League Defensive Player of the Year last season. Senior left back MacKenzie Crecelius will also be key to balance of offense and defense in front of senior goalkeeper Savanna Alba, who is back from injury.
The Rams also have a good amount of experienced leadership on the roaster. Junior Josie English will anchor the midfield in front of the backline with sophomore Sydney Trump ready to breakout in front of her, and senior Alyssa Reyes is back up top after leading Millikan in scoring last season when she was named Co-Moore League Offensive Player of the Year.
“This year will be about managing players, doing our best to keep them healthy and available,” Nunez said. “We will need to quickly get to know each other on and off the field.”
Wilson narrowly missed out on a share of the league title last year while developing young talent. They’re back with arguably the fastest front line in the city and a midfield full of technical skill that’ll make the Bruins a dangerous side to defend.
The speedy seniors Emma Shiffer and Samantha Thompson will lead the Bruins attack after being named first-team all league last year, and junior Camryn Cruz will be a key newcomer at center forward. This will be her first season of high school soccer after playing with the Los Angeles Galaxy developmental academy.
Returning co-Midfielder of the Year Cade Mendoza will line up behind that pace with her elite field vision and dynamic playmaking ability. Reese Doherty and Eleni Voulgaris will also line up in the midfield.
The defensive backline of Amaya Stewart, Connie Herrera, Jaelee Crichlow and Samantha Brandts will have a solid goalkeeper behind them in returning sophomore Olivia Herrera.
“Because all of my varsity players are training with their club teams three times a week and competing in two competitive games per weekend, I have scaled back to two training sessions per week,” Wilson coach Dalton Kaufman said. “I’m very concerned with potential injuries so I will rest them in certain games. The players have responded positively to this lighter training routine and are even more committed to winning.”
Poly had the unfortunate luck of finishing third last season despite only losing two games in league, and this year they’ll have a tough time replacing a decorated senior class that was led by Co-Moore League Offensive Player of the Year Aniah Cutler.
Third-year coach Anthony Perez said he’s excited that his seniors get a chance to play, and that he’s concentrating on building better set pieces and formations during this condensed season.
Captains Kira Ybarra, Isabella Yakel, Rachel Perry and Kelsey Adams will all be key to Poly’s success, especially in the hotly contested games against Millikan and Wilson. Perez said newcomers Cynthia Ramirez and Kyla Gomez will also contribute mightily this year.
It’s been four seasons since the Jackrabbits won league after winning four out of five from 2012-2016.
Lakewood finished .500 last year because of its struggles against the top three teams. Fourth-year coach Luis Turcios is well aware of that, and has set his teams goals at a reachable height.
“We want no injuries and to compete in every game,” Turcios said. “We have to do a lot of stretching and taking care of our bodies. We are young and only have 14 players on varsity so everyone will get a lot of minutes.”
Although they don’t have a lot of depth, the Lancers are very experienced as almost all of the players were on the varsity roster last year. Lauren Aguilar, Sam Esparza and Katie Burciaga will lead Lakewood, and freshman Malayah Nuestro could make an immediate impact.
Just like Lakewood, Cabrillo and Jordan are also dealing with low turnout this year.
Cabrillo second-year coach Roberto Escartin said his team is excited to play again despite having a thin roster.
“I think we still have a very young team, so getting these girls this varsity experience will be great and something to build on going forward,” Escartin said.
Seniors Ana Garcia, Sandra Zepeda and Nylah Tardy will need to step up and lead the Jaguars and some talented newcomers like junior Brissa Hernandez.
Jordan lost its core of senior leaders and will rely on second-year captain Odalys Moreno to lead them all over the field. Last year, she played attacking midfielder and striker before moving back to solidify the defense late in the season.
Fellow captains Lily Villaseñor and Tessa Gaitin will also be key to their success. Villaseñor is a talented forward who does a great job of holding up play, and Gaitin is back at defensive stopper. The fourth captain for Sergio Villaseñor’s team will be returning goalkeeper Melanie Moreno.
Compton will not field a team this year, so two league teams will have a bye on most game days.
St. Anthony (0-1-1) already has two games under its belt and played Oxford Academy to a 1-1 draw last week.
“Our team is very happy that we are able to have an abbreviated season,” St. Anthony coach Brett Minter said. “We are focused on having and enjoying the opportunity to play. This past year has taught of that we need to show more appreciation for the opportunities we have and try not to take some things too seriously. The group of girls is focused on having fun, developing and learning new skills, and appreciating that we have a few games to play.”