Returning talent fuels girls’ soccer CIF aspirations

Following last season’s disappointing finish, a CIF semifinals loss in penalty kicks to Chaminade, the girls’ soccer team will look to secure the only goal it couldn’t last season, capturing a CIF Championship. But according to players and coaches, there is a key difference between last year’s team and this year’s.

“Last year’s team was very young and inexperienced,” Head Coach Richard Simms said. “This year’s team should be much better prepared for playoff and pressure situations.”

But players argue that a lack of seniors was not a major detriment to last year’s team. However, they do believe that the experience obtained during last year’s season can only help them.

“We have always been a really young team,” Quinn Frankel ’16 said.  “Last year, even while starting only one senior, we still had an amazing season.”

The team returns almost all of its starters from last season, but players say this year’s team has a different vibe. They feel that the team has grown together over the years.

“I get flashbacks to the last two years of CIF games and I remember the tremendous amount of pain we experienced,” midfielder Malanna Wheat ’14 said. “Yet for some reason, this team appears as a completely new team. One that takes it all the way and wins, a team that makes the opponent cry as much as we did in the previous years. The amount of skill and heart we possess currently is pretty much unstoppable.”

The team features multiple players who took home individual awards and honors after last season, some for their career work, and others for their efforts last season. Chloe Castaneda ’15 recently tried out for the U17 National Team, and Courtney O’Brien ’15 and Courtney Corrin ’16 were named 1st Team All Area.  O’Brien, along with Lucy Putnam ’14, was also named to the All-CIF Division I 1st Team. Simms says he loves working with the team.

“Coaching at Harvard-Westlake is a privilege,” he said. “I value the opportunity to work with all the players.”

But Simms also understands that talent alone isn’t enough to win, and believes that his girls will be able to do whatever it takes to do so.

“Our expectation every year is to compete at a high level,” he said. “If we support one another and work hard, everything will come together.”

Players have a similar mindset entering the season, but they’re much more confident in their ability to succeed.

“Yeah, it is our last year and yeah, this team hasn’t won a CIF ring,” Wheat said. “But the desire increases because we have the ability to take it all the way. In previous years we overcame adversity and had obstacles in our way, but there is something about this team that has me feeling pretty confident.”