The South Pasadena girls varsity soccer squad, in action in December, got a new head coach this week: Francisco Lopez, who comes to the Tigers from San Gabriel Mission High. Photo by Hongtan Chen

Francisco Lopez, the newly named varsity girls soccer coach at South Pasadena High School, says he “wanted a new challenge.” He’ll get one with a Tiger squad that’s the two-time reigning Rio Hondo League champion but is expected to return just a handful of seniors in the upcoming season.

Still, Lopez told the Review, he is confident in his new team’s remaining talent, and enthused to be part of a program “that shows good support.”

Lopez, a 46-year-old Los Angeles native who coached the last four years at San Gabriel Mission High School, was named on July 1 to lead the Tigers, Athletic Director Anthony Chan and high school principal Janet Anderson announced. Lopez replaces Victoria Lathrop, who led the team to an 11-3-2 record last season.

Lopez said his official ascension to the coach’s job was still awaiting the formality of a background check, which he expected to be completed by next week.

Then, he said, he’ll hold a “meet and greet” with his players ahead of the July 29 opening of the squad’s summer clinic.

The season gets under way Dec. 3 versus Pasadena Poly, at home.

“I’ll go over my expectations for the year, my background and what my goal is for the year,’’ he told the Review.

“My goal is to come in and establish a program and really challenge the girls that are leaders to continue to step up and continue their streak of doing well,’’ he said. “There are some very talented seniors left. Establishing my system of play and getting them to buy in is going to be my biggest goal.’’

In his four years at San Gabriel Mission High, Lopez led the Pioneers to a CIF Southern Section (CIF-SS) Division V state regional championship and three straight Horizon League titles. He was also CIF-SS Coach of the Year twice.

He said San Gabriel Mission is a small (about 200 students), all-girls private school, and that he was eager for the bigger challenge of leading South Pasadena.

“I wanted to be part of a program that shows good support, and just knowing the history of South Pasadena and their soccer program, I could tell they have support and a good program,’’ he said. “I want to come in to something that has high expectations and will test me as a coach.’’

Prior to San Gabriel Mission, Lopez coached at Cathedral High in L.A. from 1997 to 2013.

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