By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
The always-competitive Foothill League girls soccer competition found the West Ranch Wildcats at the top for the 2021 season, but this year a new face has risen to the top as of the winter break.
Here is a look at how the Foothill League has panned out so far:
All records are according to the CIF website and MaxPreps from the day this story was published.
Castaic High School
The newest member of the Foothill League, the Castaic Coyotes (2-2-1, 1-0-1), find themselves currently tied for the top spot heading into winter break. The Coyotes share the same league record as Hart.
The Coyotes have made noise with a resounding 3-0 victory against Golden Valley and a 1-1 tie against Valencia, proving that their quick start is no fluke as they look to obtain the Foothill League title in just their first season.
Hart High School
The Hart Indians (1-1-1, 1-0-1) sit tied with the Coyotes after finishing third overall during the 2021 season.
The tradition for coach Brett Croft and the Indians remains the same with the early success they have found so far.
“Hart has always played an exciting and fun brand of soccer,” said Croft. “Historically we are blessed with great players and talent. We’re a mix of the past of Hart soccer, keeping the ball on the ground and keeping possession. It’s been a joy for me. I’m blessed and fortunate.”
The Indians are led by seniors Lauren Benz and Rubi Reyes. Benz models her game after Christiano Ronaldo but learned most of her game from the center back for the Indians from previous seasons.
“This season we’re going to learn to connect with each other,” said Benz. “We had a few games but not many practices. We need to connect better on the field and talk to each other a lot more. We’re focused and we’re confident we can make noise in CIF.”
Reyes models her game after her sister, a Division 1 athlete who loves soccer and is someone she looks up to for great inspiration.
“The expectations are to win,” said Reyes. “Last year we got a lot of new young people. They were great on the field and it was a good balance for the environment to have young people on the field. We are really determined to win with the great bonds we have on the team. There are no issues within the team.”
Saugus High School
The Saugus Centurions (5-2-1, 2-2-1) currently hold the third spot in the league standings despite having the most overall wins of any team. The Centurions finished second in the league during the 2021 season.
Valencia High School
The Valencia Vikings (3-1-2, 1-1-2) finished fourth overall for the 2021 season and now once again currently hold the fourth spot in the league standings.
The Vikings haven’t gone backwards, but head coach Brian Miller’s goal for the season is to do better than they did last year.
“We’re in a competitive league,” said Miller. “We obviously try to win every game and I think realistically we’re looking to improve on what we did the year before. We’re instilling a winning mentality, a way to win. The players are buying into those ideas, which I’m excited about.”
The Vikings are led by senior Jackie Victorio and sophomore Grace Cashman. Victorio likes to model her game after Lionel Messi, who plays the same position as her, but has the team mentality of wanting to score more goals.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Victorio. “The expectations are to make the playoffs and go far in the playoffs. We definitely have the talent to do it. Bringing in some new players was a big help for speed and how we play.”
Cashman, who looks up to her dad, wants to give her all to her team and not let anyone score on her.
“We came into the season with a rough start but we’re starting to get into the groove of things,” said Cashman. “We’ve had a lot of team bonding and we’ve gotten really close. If we can bond off the field, we can do well on the field.”
Golden Valley High School
The Golden Valley Grizzlies (3-2, 1-2) come in fifth in the standings after finishing fifth overall in 2021.
Despite the slow start, Grizzlies head coach Kai English sees how hard his team has been working every game.
“There are a lot of positives for us already,” said English. “We have started to see the kind of change and style of play in our culture. Our mentality every game is to go out there, play our hardest and never give up. If we play like that, we can compete with anyone in the league.”
The Grizzlies are led by seniors Katlyn Herrera and Natalia Zuluaga-Ramirez. Herrera models her game from her teammates from last year and wants to compete at a high level.
“We have to come out strong every game with mental blocks to get past,” said Herrera. “I expect a lot of teamwork and unity on the field this season. I think that’s helped us a lot because we’re so much more connected than the previous seasons.”
Zuluaga-Ramirez, who models her game after Andrès Inesta and Xavi Hernandez, thinks the season has been great so far and is expecting better outcomes.
“I’ve learned to stay positive on the field and not just give up,” said Zuluaga-Ramirez. “Sometimes it can be frustrating. Sometimes things don’t go our way but we have to keep a positive mindset moving forward.”
Canyon High School
The Canyon Cowboys (2-1-4, 0-0-2) currently hold the sixth spot in the Foothill League standings. Despite the early struggles, Cowboys’ first-year head coach Leonardo Neveleff wants to keep a positive and healthy environment and finish as high as possible.
“Every game holds different expectations for us,” said Neveleff. “We just want to continue to grow when we play and qualify for CIF. I’m looking forward to seeing the level of competition from all high schools. Best of luck to all the other schools in the league.”
West Ranch High School
The reigning Foothill League champion West Ranch Wildcats (4-2-1, 0-2-1) find themselves in unfamiliar territory at the bottom of the standings. Wildcats’ head coach Jared White knows they have a target on their backs and remain with high expectations for the season.
“Being defending league champions, we have a target on our back,” said White. “We lost a decent amount of quality players and experience from last season. Things haven’t gone our way but we are hoping to turn things around quickly. It’s a new schedule that presents a unique challenge for everyone in the Foothill League. I believe the best soccer in the Foothill League remains to be seen.”
The Wildcats are led by their senior captains Summer Hahn and Olivia Suarez. Hahn loves playing soccer thanks in part due to the number of friends she has made over the years.
“We have a good work ethic and I expect us to keep it up,” said Hahn. “We try to be the best for each other and push each other. For us to compete, we got to make things easier for one another and focus on playing as a team and a unit.”
Suarez models her game after her teammates who inspire her to do her best for all the hard work they put in each day.
“My expectations for the season coming off winning the league title is to keep up the energy and intensity,” said Suarez. “Playing as a team is the most important thing we can do. We need to come together this year, work our hardest at each practice, try our best and let the game speak for itself.”