First published in the Dec. 16 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
Last season, La Cañada High School girls’ soccer won the Rio Hondo League title. That success means this season could be a historic one for the Spartans.
“The No. 1 goal, from the beginning, is trying to win league,” La Cañada coach Kevin Neumeier said. “We won last year, so now we could be the first team to go back-to-back at La Cañada.”
The Spartans believe it will take a collective effort to make that history.
“We like to keep possession. The structure in keeping possession is really important for us. [It’s important] to be a balanced team; that takes all 11 out on the field to be successful, and not one individual is going to get us the championship,” Neumeier said. “It will be a total team effort. When we play, all 11 have to defend and all 11 have to attack and be involved in the play.”
Neumeier, who is in his 10th season at the helm, knows that to defend their league championship, the key will be to stay locked in.
“Our league is a short, quick one to eight games,” said Neumeier, whose squad went 6-1-1 in the Rio Hondo last season to take the title. “For eight games, can you bring it every single game to the level that we need to? When you play these four teams every year twice, whatever is on paper of who is the better team, that goes out the window. It comes down to who can come out and get the job done that day.”
La Cañada has a trio of able captains: Shania Clorefine, Jenna Milbrodt and Catherine Mispagel.
“I’ve got three captains that have been here before, know what I want and lead by example,” Neumeier said. “They definitely put in the work. They will do anything for the team, and when you have leadership like that, the other girls will follow and just watch the example. I think the leadership on this team is one of the best I’ve had.”
All three are multi-sport athletes. Milbrodt and Mispagel were runners on the cross-county team which just placed second in the state. Clorefine just finished her third season on the football team as the top placekicker.
“Now I’m telling my other girls someone needs to step up and carry it on, because [Clorefine] is graduating this year. They have to step up and fill in,” Neumeier said.
Milbrodt and Mispagel are midfielders. “Those girls just work so hard and do everything both on offense and defense,” the coach said. Clorefine will play in an attacking role; “she will score, but she also looks for her teammates and tries to set them up. That’s a unique forward to have.”
Anchoring the defense is Kyra Davis, reigning defensive MVP in the Rio Hondo League. Minding the net behind her will be a duo of goalkeepers in senior Noemi Fusco and sophomore Montana La Barge.
“Both goalies will put their body on the line, which is the No. 1 thing you ask,” Neumeier said. “You’ve got to sit there and take a shot to the face or to the body, [and] both of them won’t shy away.”
Three freshmen have made varsity, the most in Neumeier’s tenure. They are the versatile Chartlotte Krinsky; Hailee Talao, who is “very creative with the ball at her feet”; and Samantha Neumeier, who is a “well-rounded player.”
“They are forcing their ways in there and being a part of the team. [They] will definitely help out,” their coach said.
Samantha happens to be the oldest of his children, making her the first to play for him as a high schooler.
“It’s a special time for us,” coach Neumeier said.
Neumeier sees South Pasadena and Temple City as the two biggest challengers in league play.
“I’m very excited for this [season] to come,” Neumeier said. “The girls and players I have on the team are exactly what I look for and now I just hope we can all put it together, have a great successful [season] and make a little history going back-to-back.”