By Steve Breazeale
For many of the San Juan area high school winter sports programs, league play started over the weekend. Here at The Capistrano Dispatch, we will attempt to identify several teams that are primed for a breakout in league.
Saddleback Valley Christian
The Saddleback Valley Christian boys basketball team has had the San Joaquin League on lockdown for the past two seasons and are the favorites to repeat in 2014.
The Warriors (9-5) have played in several high-profile preseason tournaments and have benefitted from a balanced offense, led by Miles Seward, Eric Rwahwire and Irshad Hunte. The Warriors went 3-1 overall at the Diablo Inferno Tournament in December, rattling off impressive wins over San Clemente, Foothill and Mission Viejo.
Not many teams in league can match up with the Warriors size and athleticism, which has them positioned for another deep CIF-SS playoff run.
San Juan Hills
The San Juan Hills girls soccer team has lost only one game in the preseason and recently drew to a 0-0 tie with No. 8 ranked JSerra on January 7.
The Stallions (6-1-3) are a very young team, but seem to taken the loss of 10 seniors to graduation in stride.
At the start of the season, head coach Farrel Moore pegged the team’s back line defense as a strong point and so far, the Stallions have not disappointed. In 10 games San Juan Hills has conceded only three goals and has recorded four shutout victories.
The young Stallions team will have a tough road ahead in Sea View League play, but should be able to be competitive, as their preseason effort has shown. On January 9 they opened league play with a 3-0 loss to Capistrano Valley.
The JSerra boys soccer team has had an up and down start to their preseason, but in the end, they came out with a winning record against some tough opposition. They have defeated the likes of Capistrano Valley, Santa Margarita and El Toro and opened up Trinity League play with a 3-0 win over Orange Lutheran on January 8.
The Lions (11-5, 1-1 league) split the preseason series with Santa Margarita who, along with Servite, should make up the top three in the Trinity League. In recent years it has been JSerra and Servite battling for the top two spots in league, but this year, the Eagles have reaffirmed their position as a contender. Both the Friars and Eagles are currently ranked No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, in the CIF-SS Division 1 coaches polls.
That leaves the Lions, who reached the CIF-SS Division 1 semifinals last year, under the radar.
The team has been led by senior midfielder Ivan Canales, who has 10 goals and nine assists, and junior forward Julian Font (nine goals, three assists). Font has been particularly effective of late and notched two goals in the Lions league-opening win.
The Lions will host Servite on January 15 and follow that up with a match against Santa Margarita on January 17.
The Tartans girls basketball team has finished second behind Whitney in the Academy League standings for three years in a row, with their last league title coming in the 2010 season. But with an experienced core leading the charge, the Tartans (10-4, 1-0) could be in the mix for the league title in 2014.
Senior guard Julianna Coleman is having a breakout year that has seen her average 16.6 points per game, 8.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
The Tartans opened league play on a positive note with a convincing 44-29 win over rival Crean Lutheran, who finished third in the standings one year ago.
The first big indicator of where the Tartans are headed this year will be a January 21 match against Whitney.
Capistrano Valley Christian
The 2014 version of the Capistrano Valley Christian boys basketball team is the deepest squad that has taken the court under the guidance of head coach Zach Brogdon, which bodes well for the Eagles as they attempt to dethrone league juggernaut Saddleback Valley Christian.
The Eagles (8-6) have played a tough preseason schedule, highlighted by wins over Los Amigos and Garden Grove.
The Eagles finished second in the standings last year and if they want to establish any kind of a foothold in the San Joaquin League, they will have to get past Saddleback Valley Christian. With the Eagles experienced roster and the strength of the team lying in the paint with Diego Smith and Trevor Cantarini, Capistrano Valley Christian might have a punchers chance in league play.