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Torrey Pines boys, Carlsbad girls remain undefeated in Avocado West soccer play

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Nick Castellanos has been a stalwart on the back line for Torrey Pines.
Ken Grosse

Week three of the five-week Avocado West League soccer season posed some interesting storylines in both the boys and girls departments. In the boys’ section, the CIF’s top-ranked squad, Torrey Pines, continued to march forward undefeated but previously winless Carlsbad rose up to make the biggest statement of the week. Meanwhile, on the girls’ side, most of the talk was not about one of the five games that were played but the one that wasn’t.

Checking out the boys’ division first, fifth place Carlsbad kicked things off Wednesday by stunning second place and sixth-ranked (CIF) La Costa Canyon, 2-1. The Lancers followed that up with a noteworthy outing against Torrey Pines, leading early before falling, 2-1.

“I’d like to think we’re making progress,” said veteran Head Coach Jeff Riccitelli, whose team had grappled with a failure to close out several earlier games. “We keep talking about showing up and competing at both ends for 80 minutes and had come really close to some good wins.

“Against LCC, all of it came together and we got a result. It was a massive win for us—possibly season-changing.” Johan Dahlberg connected for two goals in the contest and goalkeeper Bryan Castandea, brought up from the freshman team after senior Duke Paane suffered a torn meniscus, continued his lights out play.

“Even though we lost, the Torrey Pines game was important from the standpoint that we’ve started believing we can compete,” continued Riccitelli. “The first time we played them, we were down, 4-0, in the first 20 minutes but we came out Friday with nothing to lose and we got after them—we led for a lot of the time and actually had some chances at the end. The league is tough but I believe we still have a chance to finish in the top half.”

With Dahlberg providing a real threat up top and a solid group of sophomores, like Aaron Harris, Owen Malone and Ravi Pathak growing up on the fly, the Lancers are looking like CIF Division II title contenders.

Torrey Pines, meanwhile, kept its quest for a second consecutive undefeated Avo West run alive, brushing aside defending CIF Open Division champ San Marcos, 3-0, before holding off Carlsbad. Scoring in both games was senior Ted Merrifield, an AW Player of the Year candidate, whose teammates Denzel Zepeda and Michael Mines also belong in that conversation. The Falcons are the top-scoring team in the league and have surrendered the least goals. They have built a five-point gap between themselves and second place La Costa Canyon with Canyon Crest another point back. San Marcos remains winless, trailing in the six-team field. Torrey Pines Head Coach Andy Hargreaves likes where his team is headed.

“The boys have come together defensively and have not been giving up any easy goals,” says Hargreaves. “When you do that, it breeds confidence.” He also compares his current unit favorably with last year’s 26-1-4 side.

“Last year, we were arguably the strongest squad of 22 players in the county,” he said, alluding to a team that won the Avocado West as well as the State Regional championship. “This year, we don’t have the same depth at every position but we still have good coverage positionally.

“They are gritty, brave and I don’t see these boys being scared of any situation.”

This week’s top games appear to be Wednesday’s collision between LCC and Canyon Crest and Friday’s rematch between LCC and Carlsbad. Although he’s still not conceding the league race, CCA Head Coach Tom Lockhart is taking a big picture view of the final two weeks.

“We’ve had a rough couple of weeks and had so many guys out with injuries and sickness Friday against San Marcos that we actually used our second and third string goalkeepers as field players,” said Lockhart. “We got some incredible saves from Brandon (Kaleta), our keeper, and managed to get the W. This was a good result because we were thrown curve ball after curve ball but found a way to win.

“We still want to fight back and finish as high as we can in the league, but honestly, these next couple of weeks it will be just as important to get our starters healthy and ready for the CIF Playoffs.”

Last week’s featured girls’ game, first place Carlsbad traveling to Torrey Pines and trying to increase its five-point advantage over the second place Falcons, never happened. A scheduling miscommunication resulted in both the varsity and junior varsity games being canceled and re-scheduled for Monday, Feb. 4 at times to be determined. If both teams win their next two games, the Feb. 4 encounter would provide an opportunity for Carlsbad to clinch back-to-back Avo West titles.

Another loss would essentially erase any hopes Torrey Pines has of catching undefeated (5-0) Carlsbad, which appears to be rounding into top form. Prior to Friday’s cancellation, the Lancers (sitting second in the latest CIF power rankings; Torrey Pines is third) rolled over La Costa Canyon, 4-0. Junior Taylor Wells and sophomore Lexi Wright netted two goals apiece in that one with the latter upping her season total to 23.

“I feel very good about the way we’re playing right now,” said second-year Head Coach Dean Balent, whose charges are averaging three goals a game in Avo West play and have given up just two total while going undefeated through five. “We came out with our foot on the gas against LCC and scored four times in the first 25 minutes.” To make things even more daunting for opponents, the Lancers’ senior goalkeeper Audrey Ketterer, out for the first two months of the season with a broken arm, is getting back into game shape while playing 30 minutes in each of the league outings so far.

It’s a logjam below the top two with Canyon Crest (8 pts.), San Marcos (7) and La Costa Canyon (7) trying to maneuver themselves up the league ladder as well as the CIF’s power rankings. LCC, which faces CCA on the road Thursday, scored more goals (3) in beating Mission Hills last week than it had in its first five Avocado West matches. Senior Kristy Clanton accounted for two but Head Coach Natalie Eckerlin didn’t necessarily think the three-goal outburst meant the Mavericks would suddenly be a different offensive group going forward.

“We started off our season scoring a lot but going up against some of the tougher teams in this league, we hit a little drought,” said Eckerlin. “We focused on getting back to the way we wanted to move the ball and play in the final third and our performance against Mission Hills reflected that.

“I think we’ve been competitive in the Avocado West but definitely left some opportunities out there in the first half of the league season. We’re looking forward to playing all of those teams a second time,

knowing you have to be at your best every day in this league.”

Upcoming Avocado West League Schedule / Girls (check school websites for confirmed start times)

Wednesday, Jan. 30

Carlsbad @ San Marcos

Canyon Crest @ La Costa Canyon

Torrey Pines @ Mission Hills

Friday, Feb. 1

San Marcos @ Torrey Pines

Mission Hills @ Canyon Crest

Carlsbad @ La Costa Canyon

Kristy Clanton
Senior Kristy Clanton has been an offensive force for LCC. Ken Grosse
Johan Dahlberg
Carlsbad senior Johan Dahlberg scored two goals in the Lancers' victory over LCC. Ken Grosse
Taylor Wells
Junior forward Taylor Wells from Carlsbad. Ken Grosse