Mustangs girls soccer team kicks off the season with four wins

When a high school like San Dieguito Academy is in a region where girls soccer is serious business, records don’t always tell the whole story.

So while the Mustangs think they have a more balanced roster this year, the fact that they opened the season at 4-0 after winning four games all of last season isn’t a huge surprise.

“Our record on paper didn’t look that good (last year) because the majority of the teams we played are like three divisions above us,” fourth-year coach Siggy Eyre explained of her SDA team that was in Division III last year. “We actually did fairly well considering who we were playing against, we never got too blown out. We had a good team year last season, we played really nice soccer.”

Now playing in D-IV — a decision made at the CIF level based on last year’s record — but still possessing the talent of a D-III squad, SDA has come out strong in 2016-17, even with injuries to several key players.

Starting the season with four games in the span of four days as part of the Baron’s Cup Tournament, the Mustangs have defeated Sweetwater, San Ysidro, Mater Dei Catholic and Mission Bay by a combined score of 21-1.

And while the quality of opponent has led to a bigger spread in those games, SDA’s mix of experienced veterans and exciting youngsters should be a good recipe for success regardless of who is on the other side of the field.

“The team was super young last year and we are still young this year, which is good for the future of the program as well,” Eyre said. “It seems the incoming freshmen just keep getting better and better each year.”

This year’s edition of the Mustangs features two gifted freshmen and six standout sophomores to complement the 12 upperclassman on SDA’s largest roster in several years. Of the team’s four seniors — Tina Bullington, Shayne Busick, Hope Hajek and Maia Nelson — only Busick has played in the past few games because of injury and illness to the other three. However, a group of juniors led by center midfielder Julia Honda has stepped in to provide additional leadership.

“(Honda) is playing great,” Eyre said. “She’s always been a natural leader and she’s just come back this year very strong.”

But it has been a true team effort as sophomores Yarisette Sequeria and the speedy Holly Cook have been two of the Mustangs’ top scorers, and classmates Nadia Hagnani and Julia Lucero have been big contributors as well.

Lucero, a midfielder, came up from JV midway through last season and made her presence felt immediately on the varsity squad.

“(This year) we are growing really close as a team,” said Busick, an outside midfielder who will play at Trinity International University in Chicago next year.

“A few years ago, we were really reconstructing the team and now we are closer, more connected and have better chemistry. That helps with passing and movement and just knowing what the other players are going to do.”

And then there is diminutive freshman Dana Scott, who has stepped up in the key position of center back. After injuries left the position vacant coming into the season, Scott and sophomore Shayne Glazer each played well enough to earn the spot and have shined in the first few outings.

“(Scott) is doing really well playing center back, which is kind of a leadership role so it is hard for a freshman to play,” Eyre explained.

Goalkeeper McKenna Garvey, a junior who is new to the SDA varsity team this year, has also been solid. And the Mustangs gain even more talent and depth when promising freshman Carly Eroso finishes her club commitments and seniors such as Nelson, Hajek and Bullington come back from injury.

“We are doing pretty well playing our outside backs through our wingers, through the middle and working on stuff like that,” Honda said. “Once we have all our players back from injury, we will be very strong (with our starters and) players off the bench.”

That depth extends to the coaching staff, where Eyre’s friend Brianne Oostinga stepped in last minute when another coach had to take a leave.

“I’m excited to have Bri because she’s played at a professional level. but also she’s quite a bit younger so it’s good for the girls to have someone they can look up that isn’t so much older that they can’t see themselves in,” Eyre said.

A new frosh-soph coach is Craig Bedford, who is from Wales.

“We have a good (staff) here, we are all working together trying to build one program not three separate teams (varsity, JV, frosh-soph),” continued Eyre, who teaches P.E. at Paul Ecke Central. “When I became varsity coach, that’s what I wanted to change. Make it more of a program that everyone wants to be a part of and supports each other.”

Eyre grew up in Oregon before playing at Whitman College, a Division III school in Washington. She moved down south 15 years ago, has coached soccer in the area for about 10 years (six with SDA, which is down the street from her house) and still plays the sport as well. Eyre and her husband Rich have a son — who plays JV soccer at SDA — and a daughter who goes to Oak Crest Middle School.

Next up for the Mustangs is a home match Dec. 13 (5 p.m.) against Southwest EC.

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