Servite, Santa Margarita, JSerra and Mater Dei high schools will battle for supremacy in the ultra-competitive Trinity League this season in boys’ soccer, while Rosary could surprise the traditional powerhouses in a skirmish for the league championship in girls’ soccer.
Servite’s boys, ranked No.1 in Orange County in the preseason, is a team stacked with experience, talent and one of the best defenses ever assembled in the CIF Southern Section. All but one starter returns from last year’s squad that was statistically the best in Servite history, while midfielder J.T. Cook and goalie Keith Murphy shared Trinity League Defensive Most Valuable Player honors as the Friars advanced to their second straight CIF Division I semifinal.
“Servite is a powerhouse this year,” Santa Margarita coach Wade Fraser says. “I expect (Bellflower) St. John Bosco to be very good as well.”
Last season, the Friars yielded only eight goals while recording 18 shutouts, both school records, while Cook, Murphy, Elijah Barajas and Zane Rojas sparked the defense. Field players Cook (St. Louis), Barajas (Cal State Fullerton) and Rojas (West Point) have made college commitments.
Servite coach Jon Spencer’s team allowed only one goal in Trinity League play last season and is hopeful of a league title in 2015.
“We are a well-balanced team,” Spencer says. “I am surprised with how well this team has come together. They are like a family. They care for each other. I am proud that they all use their own individual talents and combine them with the team, which makes for a strong team. These boys have embraced the (Servite) Formation Program and desire to be faith-filled leaders. Our coaching staff is proud of the way our boys are building this program.”
Santa Margarita, ranked third in the county preseason poll, will be led by senior forward Jake Fisher, who had eight multi-goal games last season, and junior defender Jonathan Stoop, the team’s only returning starters. Fisher was the Trinity League Offensive MVP last season, while earning first-team All-CIF and All-Orange County.
“Our strength is that we have talented and intelligent young players that are hungry to win,” Fraser says. “When we put forth the effort, we are very good.”
JSerra, seventh in the county preseason rankings, and Mater Dei are also expected to challenge for the top spot in league. JSerra’s Ivan Canales, who has committed to UC Irvine, returns as one of the best offensive players in the league after scoring 15 goals with eight assists last season.
“Servite is loaded,” Mater Dei coach Sean Ganey says. “(The Friars) have talent, senior leadership and hunger to make a big push in CIF. JSerra returns the league player of the year and Santa Margarita returns one of the top players in the county. St. John Bosco is always talented and playing at their place is always tricky. Even Orange Lutheran could surprise some people. They will all be dangerous.”
Mater Dei will start five freshmen, three of whom play up front, so the Monarchs’ attack might “lack the ruthlessness to put games away,” Ganey says. Mater Dei, however, is solid in the back and could have the best midfield in the league. Senior center backs Jack Binford and Marshall Porcella are Division I college prospects, while midfielders Ben Martin and Pablo Arriaga are two of the finest juniors in the county.
In girls’ soccer, Rosary returns 10 starters and five that have played together for four years.
“We have a fast and skilled team,” Rosary coach Sean Melendez said. “Our weakness would have to be our size, but the girls love the challenge.”
Reigning CIF Division I champion Santa Margarita, with Santa Clara commits Machaela George and Natalie Kennedy, will compete for another Trinity League title. Under coach Chuck Morales, the Eagles have captured 14 league titles, six CIF championships and a CIF Regional banner.
“Santa Margarita has traditionally been the top team in the Trinity League, so (the Eagles) would have to be the favorite,” Melendez says. “Every Trinity League match is a battle. The question is who will win the war?”
For Rosary, returning starters include Emilee Monnig (committed to Utah State), Roisin Allaeddini (UC Davis), Allyssa Valente (Notre Dame De Namur), Kelly Shaughnessy, Noelle Nisco, Sam Dulac, Jazmin Valente, Olivia LaCasto, Mackenzie Hansen, Amy Morikawa and Emma Toohey.
Mater Dei coach Matt West, whose team is led by Olivia Ware, said Santa Margarita is the team to beat, and Rosary “has its best team that I can remember, and I anticipate them really challenging game in and game out.”
Brooke Kunzelman, Antoinette Bailey, Megan Petersen and Samantha Hobert are returning starters for JSerra.