Week One of Avocado West League boys’ and girls’ soccer is now in the books and although a full four weeks and eight games per team remain, plenty of storylines are already developing. Below are some brief perspectives on rounds one and two with each team’s league record in parentheses.
Avocado West Boys’ Soccer
Just two games in and defending champion Torrey Pines (2-0) has already staked its place alone atop the league table. Although it’s just a one-point gap back to second place La Costa Canyon, the fact that the Falcons, ranked No. 1 in the CIF, have now won 14 regular season league contests in a row and came out of the gate firing (four first half scores vs. Carlsbad) without a full lineup would seem to indicate it’s going to take more than just showing up to stop that streak. Head Coach Andy Hargreaves was pleased, but not going over the top about the significance of his team’s opening week, particularly with the double-barreled challenge of Canyon Crest and La Costa Canyon looming in week two.
“The boys feel good about the 2-0 start but we understand the last game (a 2-1 decision over Mission Hills) was by no means one of our better performances,” said Hargreaves, who was missing speedy forward Michael Mines and easing crafty midfielder Denzel Zepeda back into playing shape in games one and two. “This week’s games will be the biggest of the season thus far and going against two strong teams who are also local rivals is the type of situation where anything can happen.
“We should be at full strength for the first time in a while and we’ve been training for these games with the understanding of the importance of grabbing wins from both.”
LCC (1-0-1), which opened with a frustrating draw at Mission Hills, bounced back with perhaps the most noteworthy single win of the week, a 3-1 road victory at the section’s No. 2 team Canyon Crest. Senior Dane Bruhahn tallied twice, upping his team best total to five goals, against CCA. Coach Craig Dean is hoping the result will prove to be an offensive catalyst for a Maverick side that has been solid but not gotten all that it hoped for out of the season-to-date.
“There was some relief to finally score a few goals,” said Dean, whose club is expected to be one of Torrey Pines’ primary Avo West title rivals. “We’ve played some very good soccer in every phase except finishing.
“We’ve hit posts, gone off the crossbar, hit keepers, you name it but the good thing is we’ve been creating plenty of chances. To have a few fall might give us a little momentum in that area.”
The team with the most to prove this week could be Canyon Crest (1-1-0), which will have a great opportunity to do just that with Torrey Pines coming in Wednesday afternoon. Typically one of the league’s steadiest units, the Ravens have dropped two of their last three but did record a sound, 3-2, victory over defending CIF Open Division champ San Marcos in the middle of that set. Interestingly, Head Coach Tom Lockhart’s perspective on the loss to LCC was similar to Dean’s.
“I felt that LCC was kind of a sleeping giant and told our kids, don’t be fooled by the record,” said Lockhart. “We knew they were good, they have an excellent coach and with 20 seniors are going to have maturity. They came out and just played really well, we couldn’t match their intensity or efficiency.
“In the bigger picture, it shows us where we stack up. We made some very correctable mistakes and positive results this week put us right back in the mix.”
Carlsbad (0-1-1) rebounded from its one-sided loss to Torrey Pines with tie vs. host San Marcos. League newcomers San Marcos (0-1-1) and Mission Hills (0-1-1) were also able to snag just a single point in their Avocado West debuts. Those two teams will meet Friday. The Grizzlies, who had won six straight prior to starting AW play, have beaten San Marcos just once in the last 11 showdowns between these crosstown adversaries.
Avocado West Girls’ Soccer
In a high stakes kick-off to the league championship chase, the top two-ranked girls’ teams in CIF clashed last Wednesday with visiting No. 2 Carlsbad (2-0-0) making quite a statement by shutting out No. 1 Torrey Pines (1-1-0), 4-0. Since the two squads were the top-seeded pair in last year’s CIF Open Division Playoffs, the conclusion wasn’t necessarily surprising, just the score. The Lancers led, 1-0, at the break and blew it open during a three-goal burst midway through the second half, sophomore Lexi Wright registering the final two. On the defensive side, versatile Carlsbad junior Marisa Bubris did a creditable job of slowing down star Falcon midfielder Tatum Lenain. Lancer Head Coach Dean Balent was excited about that win but just as pleased with the 4-2 follow-up triumph over San Marcos.
“We did a great job from back-to-front against Torrey Pines and really turned in a full game,” said Balent. “We were a little better prepared than when we lost here last year and it’s nice knowing as our push for back-to-back championships gets underway, the league will have to go through us.” The win and the subsequent conquest over San Marcos pushed Carlsbad up to No. 37 in the nation (MaxPreps) but Balent was not getting caught up in the hype, knowing the future may have just became a little tougher.
“The girls all understood the task at hand after such a big win and accepted the challenge of not letting down against San Marcos,” continued Balent, whose team has a league high eight goals in Avo West play to date. “This is the toughest league in San Diego and we know we will have to fight for every win. After the Torrey Pines game, we are now a team that everyone is going to rise up to play against.”
Noting that both teams had key players missing and it was the first of 10 games, Torrey Pines Coach Martyn Hansford took the loss in stride. “Honestly, I thought we had some good first half chances and being down one at halftime, I was not too concerned,” he said. “But Carlsbad has a potent strike force and for about a 10-minute spell in the second half we went to pieces—a couple of unforced errors and the next thing you know we’re trailing by four goals.
“We’re disappointed, but that happens sometimes. You have to credit them, they deserved it. We’re going to have to play better and make sure that one game won’t define us.”
Meanwhile, first-year Coach Matt Favor has his Canyon Crest (1-0-1) charges lurking in second place, following up a scoreless tie in the opener vs. San Marcos by prevailing with a quality, 2-0, verdict over La Costa Canyon. It will be a week of reckoning for the Ravens as they travel down the road to Torrey Pines Wednesday and then welcome Carlsbad two days later.
Coach Natalie Eckerlin’s La Costa Canyon (1-1) crew split its first two outings and, like CCA, will find out a lot about its chances of matching or improving on last year’s third place finish when it squares off against San Marcos and Torrey Pines this week.
It’s obviously still early but, as on the boys’ side, San Marcos (0-1-1) and Mission Hills (0-2-0) find themselves looking up from the bottom. They lock horns Friday so at least one figures to make some headway in week two. San Marcos was impressive in posting a clean sheet in its tie at Canyon Crest but got shredded for four goals at home by Carlsbad.
Upcoming Avocado West Soccer Schedules (check school websites or MaxPreps for confirmed game times):
Wednesday, January 16
San Marcos @ La Costa Canyon
Torrey Pines @ Canyon Crest
Mission Hills @ Carlsbad
La Costa Canyon @ San Marcos
Canyon Crest @ Torrey Pines
Carlsbad @ Mission Hills
Friday, January 18
San Marcos @ Mission Hills
Canyon Crest @ Carlsbad
La Costa Canyon @ Torrey Pines
Mission Hills @ San Marcos
Carlsbad @ Canyon Crest
Torrey Pines @ La Costa Canyon