When it comes to girls’ high school soccer in San Diego, the North Coast is where the action is. Since the CIF initiated its Open Division in 2014, five of the six titles have been won by teams from the coastal stretch between Del Mar and Carlsbad, including the banner captured by defending champion Carlsbad last February.
As the 2020 playoffs get underway Wednesday, the region is again expected to be flexing its muscles. The top four seeds (listed in order) in the eight-team Open Division—Cathedral Catholic, Carlsbad, Torrey Pines and La Costa Canyon—all hail from local territory. The latter three schools, along with No. 8 seed San Marcos are all members of the Avocado West League. In a sport where parity tends to rule, San Diego’s North Coast dominates.
The foursome has its differences and similarities. One of the differences is on the sideline. While top-seeded Cathedral Catholic is coached by veteran Dawn Lee, who recently collected her 300th career win, and Torrey Pines’ Martyn Hansford, in his eighth year, has a pair of CIF Open crowns on his resume, the other two teams are guided by first-year head coaches.
All have top flight stars in the attacking third. Carlsbad is again led up front by the swift duo of junior Lexi Wright, 2019 CIF Player of the Year, and senior partner Taylor Wells. Cathedral Catholic features the Western League’s leading scorer in junior Sophia Aragon, Georgetown-bound Torrey Pines senior Tatum Lenain is dangerous as a scorer and distributor and La Costa Canyon senior Lizzy Teran proved to be one of this winter’s rising stars.
While Carlsbad’s 75 team goals easily out-distances the others in the trio, the total of only 12 goals against allowed by a Cathedral defense that boasts size, experience and solidarity is clearly the most impressive of the group.
By virtue of their seeds, the quartet will all host first round contests. Cathedral Catholic, which will not have played a game in 12 days, entertains San Marcos, Carlsbad will take on a Del Norte squad it beat twice during the regular season, Torrey Pines faces a rematch with an always tough Poway side that it tied in early January and La Costa Canyon, back in the Open Division for the first time since 2016, faces 2018 titlist Eastlake, the only school outside of the area to win the uppermost division.
Victorious teams Wednesday will advance to the semi-finals the following Tuesday (Feb. 25) and the championship tilt is slated for Friday, Feb. 28 at Mission Bay High School.
Here is a quick overview of the top four seeds along with coach and player comments.
No.1 Seed - CATHEDRAL CATHOLIC
Head Coach: Dawn Lee
Record / League: 19-2-3 / Western (first)
CIF Titles: 16 (Division III-15, Division I-1)
Record vs. First Round Opponent: DNP
Record vs. all Open Division teams: 2-0
Head Coach Dawn Lee: “There are eight very talented teams in the CIF Open Division, so to get the No. 1 seed is exciting. We are proud and fortunate to have earned that. We certainly have a good team but the Open Division is an elite group and it’s anyone’s tourney for the taking. We are motivated to compete against such great programs.”
Junior Sophia Aragon: “I’ve been on the varsity for three years and our team chemistry is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We grind and work together and even when we’re not at our best, our mindset has allowed us to win. One of our team strengths throughout the season is that we’ve tried not to look too far into the future but just concentrate on the job at hand. We have a very talented team and I believe that attitude can take us to the championship.”
No. 2 Seed - CARLSBAD
Head Coach: Katie (Tarrant) Ritchie
Record / League: 17-4-1 / Avocado West (first)
CIF Titles: 2 (Open-1, Division I-1)
Record vs. First Round Opponent: 2-0
Record vs. all Open Division teams: 7-3
Head Coach Katie (Tarrant) Ritchie: “Being reigning champions creates its own kind of mindset. Our girls really want to go back-to-back so there’s a different kind of focus for them now—they know they have a serious job to do over these three games to achieve that goal.
Our offense is still the strength of our team but I feel we’ve got much better depth—quality depth—than we had at the start of the season. We’ve been able to rest starters along the way and give some of our younger players a chance to get exposed. That has made us a much better team overall.”
Junior Lexi Wright: “Our team is very special this year and I think if we all work hard and give it all we have, our team is talented enough to beat any of these teams. Since we won last year it has given us motivation this year to hopefully win back-to-back.”
No. 3 Seed – TORREY PINES
Head Coach: Martyn Hansford
Record / League: 10-5-6 / Avocado West (T-third)
CIF Titles: 13 (Open-2, Division I-7, Division II-4)
Record vs. First Round Opponent: 0-0-1
Record vs. all Open Division teams: 3-4-3
Head Coach Martyn Hansford: “There will be eight strong teams all wanting to achieve the same thing and it will come down to the team that is able to put three excellent performances together. That said, we have had the same approach all season in that the next game is all that matters. We are looking forward to our game Wednesday against a strong, well-coached Poway team. We feel we have a squad that is in a really good place and ready to give everything physically, mentally and emotionally to produce our best football of the season.”
Senior Tatum Lenain: “I feel confident about our chances in CIF. We are about as healthy as we have been all year. I also think we are playing the best we have since the season started. We continue to defend well and more people are contributing on offense. I also like our team chemistry. We have a rough stretch of games in the middle of the season but we stuck together, kept playing hard and I think we improved because of it.”
No. 4 Seed – LA COSTA CANYON
Head Coach: Ryan Morissey
Record / League: 9-5-5/ Avocado West (second)
CIF Titles: 9 (Open-2, Division I-6, Division II-1)
Record vs. First Round Opponent: DNP
Record vs. all Open Division teams: 3-4-1
Head Coach Ryan Morissey: “I think we have as good a chance as anybody. We get to start the bracket with a clean slate against Eastlake and I believe we care capable of beating anyone when we’re on our game. I like our chances Wednesday and hope we will get a go at the semis and finals.”
Senior Lizzy Teran: “My freshman year we lost in the CIF championship final and since then it has been a personal goal to bring a championship back to LCC. Our team’s attitude is super high, we’re working really hard and it feels like we’re peaking at the right time. We’re going to miss Lorena Villa up front but our team wants to win it for her.”