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Soccer Wilson

PREVIEW: Wilson Girls’ Soccer

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.

The Wilson girls’ soccer team has a proud history and a trophy case that includes Moore League, CIF-SS, CIF State Regional, and national championship hardware. But the Bruins have just one league title in the last five years (won in 2022) as they’ve been chasing Millikan along with the rest of the league. This year, the Bruins once again have the top-end talent to claim a championship, but will have to overcome the Rams’ depth to get there.

“I’m excited because we have great young players coming up in the system,” said Wilson coach Brian Irvin. “In our playoff game last year we started three freshmen. That’s great for us.”

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The Bruins finished 12-6 overall last year and took second in the Moore League with a 9-3 performance. They return four All-Moore League players including sophomore star Zoie Fontenot. She and her sister Kai Fontenot bring speed and skill to the Bruins attack and make them tough to handle.

“They’re game changers,” said Irvin. “When they’re available and on the pitch we’re very dynamic. It’s just the balance of coming from high level club and getting those girls not over-used. The other top programs are dealing with the same thing.”

The biggest question mark for the Bruins is replacing All-American goalie Olivia Herrera, who is now with Arizona State. Irvin said Herrera was the best he’d seen at the high school level last year, dominant enough at the back of the defense that the Bruins would be in every game no matter what else happened.

They’ll turn to sophomore Violet Corona, who followed Herrera as Stanford Middle School’s goalie and who’s used to stepping into big shoes.

“I’m confident she can get the job done, and she’s got a talented defense in front of her which will take some pressure off of her,” said Irvin.

The Bruins will look Cindy Norfles and Kendall Bostre on the back line, with Alexis Rice either joining them or playing winger. Brooke Karatsu-Boteilho will be the attacking mid, while Kate Eckenrode will be free to move to wherever she’s needed in a given game. Eckenrode is a two-sport star for Wilson, where she helped lead the volleyball team to a Moore League title this year.

“She’s our utility player kind of similar to volleyball, I can put her anywhere and she’s going to be effective and successful,” said Irvin. “We’ve got a good blend of young players with veteran experience this year.”

In addition to the Fontenots and Corona, sophomore Kylee Greenvance is another Bruin expected to contribute this year after starting games as a freshman last season. Junior Leah Garcia will see time at winger and senior Citlalli Sarahi Sanchez will play winger or false nine. Lyla Jordan is a new player with great possession skills who should help the Bruins control the field.

One thing that’s been fun about the changing landscape of high school soccer is that while club sports reign supreme in many ways, it’s clear that there’s still a huge emotional investment in the prep scene–that’s been apparent at Wilson for sure.

“It’s so fun to send your seniors off with a Moore League championship, it does mean a lot to them,” said Irvin. “It gives them bragging rights within their city. That’s very special. Yes it’s a place for them to be with their friends a little longer but they do take it very seriously.”

Eckenrode is a high school and club player in two highly-competitive sports in volleyball and soccer, and agreed with her coach that the high school season brings a new element.

“I really enjoy it, I like playing for my school it’s really fun,” said Eckenrode. “It’s definitely different, and it’s so much fun having your friends coming out to watch and your whole family there.”

With the goal of easing players into their league schedule as they transition from their club seasons, Irvin added some more tough nonleague games.

“I’m always trying to figure out that balance, we’ve added some tough preseason opponents,” said Irvin. “We’re scrimmaging JSerra and we open up with Huntington Beach and Los Al. Hopefully that prepares us for those tough league games with Millikan and Poly.”

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.