The South Pasadena girls varsity soccer squad is coming off a record season last year in which it won the Rio Hondo League for the first time in six years. Then the girls won the CIF Southern Section Division 5 championship. They hadn’t won a CIF title since 2003. And if that wasn’t enough, the varsity girls squad went to CIF state for the first time in the history of the program, where, in the semifinals they lost to Ventura High School, 3-0. Impressive season.
But what about this year? Head Coach Tory Lathrop is cautiously optimistic that this year could be better than last year but there is much work ahead of them. Moreover, CIF moved the girls up two divisions from 5 to 3, a much tougher division.
“Last season was a great experience,” Lathrop said. “A lot of my girls had never experienced postseason before. My seniors really hadn’t had a chance to go to postseason in their three seasons before. They got a lot of exposure as to what goes into that as far as organizing it, the dedication it takes, the character it takes, to really make it through all those extra matches. We played something like almost 30 matches last year when you put it all together. It’s a lot of soccer.”
That winning squad lost eight seniors to graduation and along with that, they lost something else.
“We lost a little bit of our leadership roles, maturity wise,” Lathrop said. “I’m not going to say we are a young team but we are a team in transition. We are bringing a lot of girls up from JV to varsity for the first time this season, so there’s a bit of a learning curve. There is a learning curve as far as speed of play and what to expect from other varsity teams and getting those newer players to understand what their role is within our own team and getting that whole team to gel together.”
So far so good, Lathrop said. The girls have won two preseason games and lost one so far. They beat Gabrielino, 4-1, and Alhambra, 6-1. They lost to La Salle in Pasadena, 2-1.
“Varsity now has a 2-1 overall record,” Lathrop said. “They have scored 11 goals in three games, but given up 4 goals total.”
They played in the Newport-Harbor tournament this past weekend, one Lathrop believes is a real test for the teams’ competitiveness.
Lathrop explained the first loss of the preseason this way.
“We gave up a goal in the 18-yard box halfway through the first half, off a La Salle direct kick,” she said. “Our defense didn’t clear it well enough and La Salle was able to convert on it. But we did answer back about 12 minutes later with Rainey Tilley’s goal. La Salle’s second goal in the second half was a shot from about 20 yards out and goalkeeper Noemi Howland just couldn’t get to it as it was placed high and in the corner of the goal. We did well to put more offensive pressure on them and had a chance to equalize in the last minute off a corner but couldn’t finish on goal. We looked tired and had a number of our starters with lingering injuries, which didn’t help. It was a good, competitive match, which was what I was expecting and I think it’ll help us prepare for the tournament this weekend.”
Although pleased with the overall play of her team, she was disappointed with the points scored against them. Lathrop considers herself to be a defensive-minded coach and she would’ve like to have shut out both squads.
“We need to work on our defense, for sure,” she said.
Lathrop, however, still believes that this year’s squad is good enough to repeat as league champions.
“I think we definitely have the personnel to do it,” she said. “It’s going to be can we close the loopholes that we have and play with enough consistency and really close games out that need to get closed out… I don’t want us to get by on little wins. I want us to have decisive victories.”
The players, meanwhile, agree with their coach and say the upcoming season is going to be a challenge.
“I think it’s going to be really challenging because we moved up some divisions in CIF,” said Captain Quyen ‘Bini’ Ballagh, a junior. “But we are all really excited for the upcoming season and we are going to have a great season.”
Finally, Coach Lathrop encouraged people to come out and support their girls’ soccer team.
“Come support us,” she said. “We love seeing people in the stands. We have a great group of parents and the girls have great friends on campus that come out… I encourage the community to come out and watch a game, especially if you have a daughter that’s interested in playing at the high school level. Have her come and hang out and say ‘hi’ to us. We are fun and friendly. This year we are trying to do more things to connect with the community… We love our entire community.”
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