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Long Beach Poly Soccer

PREVIEW: Long Beach Poly Girls’ Soccer

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly is sponsored by Bryson Financial

The Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits have consistently been one of the teams to beat in Moore League girls’ soccer, finishing near the top of the standings for most of the last decade.

In just the last five years under head coach Anthony Perez, Poly has won at least eight of their league games in each season, including a 9-1-2 mark a season ago.

But despite all that winning, the Jackrabbits haven’t reached the top of the Moore League table since 2016, and are eager to overtake the likes of Millikan and Wilson to recapture the throne in 2024. With a loaded senior class gone from last year’s team, a new wave of Jackrabbits will enter the lineup for Coach Perez, and he’s got a junior-heavy roster ready to make a name for themselves.

“Every year at Poly we’re striving to get that title back,” Perez said. “And we always know that we have a team that has the potential to get it, but everybody’s fully aware that you have to make it happen in the moment. It doesn’t really matter what it says on paper or anything, it’s in the moment, can you perform. And so this year the goal is, can we perform in the moment and make it happen.”

Senior midfielder Annette Guzman is back from injury and will be a leader for the Jackrabbits this season.

There’s just a handful of seniors on this year’s team, led by Annette Guzman who missed last season due to injury and is eager to be back in the lineup. Perez praised her leadership in the midfield, as well as her skill and versatility.

Guzman believes that the strength of the team will come from the midfield, where the Jackrabbits have some exciting playmakers. She also feels that the team has come together well in preparation for the season.

“Our communication, our connection, our chemistry is better than last year I would say, so I feel like that’s an advantage for us,” said Guzman, who is also the ASB President at Poly. “It’s gonna be a lot more connections and passing on the field, especially with our bonding activities that we do and things like that. I feel like a lot of people won’t expect what they see from us this year.”

Freshman Rosa Mallach will join Guzman in the midfield, and both players are capable of filling different roles for the Jackrabbits. At attacking mid, Perez is really high on returning senior Malaya Nuestro, who he expects to have a big year.

“She’ll probably be my best player this year,” said Perez of Nuestro. “She is my best player, that’s a fact, I’m just hoping she performs like it … She has the ability to flip the switch. She could have the worst day in the world, but once she gets on the field, her mind changes to happy mode, and she’s about to get busy.”

Perez plans to have talented junior Aaya McLyn playing as the team’s striker. McLyn was a physical force in the midfield last season, and showed what type of all-around athlete she is while playing quarterback for Poly’s Moore League champion flag football team this fall.

Poly’s defense will have a good amount of experience, with four juniors filling out the back line. Sydney Santos should hold down left back for the Jackrabbits while Leila Holland will play on the right.

The small-but-mighty Alex Valente is a returning starter at center back, where she’ll play alongside Sylvia Orliczky.

With last year’s goalkeeper Kennedy Justin now at the University of Hawaii, the Jackrabbits will need to replace her leadership and reliability in goal. The favorite for that job is junior Caitlyn Jung, who Perez calls a fearless and relentless competitor. She doesn’t have much training or experience in goal, but Perez believes she can make up for that with her athleticism and competitiveness.

“Whether we’re practicing or messing around or not, she’s always going 100 (percent),” said Perez of Jung. “Her reaction speed, her agility, and her mentality, you know, she’ll dive headfirst into a ball and get kicked in the face … At the end of the day, we really don’t have a keeper like Kennedy, but we do have someone that I believe in the moment when we need her, could very well come up big for us.”

The Jackrabbits will begin Moore League play on Dec. 5 against Jordan, then will host Wilson in a key showdown two days later. Poly will get its first look at the reigning league champions on Dec. 14 when they travel to play Millikan.

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By The562 Network Inc

Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.