With the holiday season now in the rear-view mirror, soccer season in the valley is starting to heat up. Non-league play is wrapping up, and we are two months from the postseason.
There’s still a lot to be determined. Without many league matches, the verdict is still out on several teams. Which ones will shine this year? Who may have lost a step since last season?
We are beginning to discover some of those answers. In the early going, there have been players and teams that have set the pace, while others are still in the process of establishing their identity.
There are a handful of teams that appear poised to get into the postseason, and several players who could push their teams deep into a run once they do.
So which teams and players should we watch out for? Let’s find out.
Falling in line
If there was any kind of uncertainty coming into the season about which team in the valley has the best chance to make a deep playoff run, there should have been.
La Quinta made it to the CIF semifinals last year, winning three games before falling to La Serna, 3-2. It was the best season in school history, and yet the Blackhawks return several key players.
Through 12 games, La Quinta is 9-1-2 and hasn’t lost a DVL game in two years. The Blackhawks have not disappointed.
The rest of the Desert Valley League will fight for the remaining three or four playoff spots.
“There’s going to be some really good games toward the end of the season,” Palm Desert head coach Chris Keuilian said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
Among them, Cathedral City appears to be a legit contender. The Lions have already beaten Coachella Valley once, Palm Desert twice, and are still unbeaten in the league.
They’ll likely battle those two teams and Xavier Prep for a postseason berth. The Aztecs were second in the league last year, the Saints were third and the Arabs have an experienced team with lots of talent.
Palm Springs and Indio haven’t played enough to be out of the mix, either.
But there’s no doubt that La Quinta, the No. 1 team in the CIF Division V rankings, is the team to beat until further notice.
There may actually be more star power in the valley this year than a year ago.
Everybody knows about Brielle Leon, La Quinta’s senior striker and all-time leading scorer. She’ll play for Michigan State next year.
But some of the other key players are somewhat under the radar. One of them is Alondra Gutierrez, the career scoring leader at Coachella Valley. The four-year starter has 11 goals already this season, and leads a very talented cast that includes captains Alexis Garcia and Kayla Torres and goalie Elizabeth Angulo.
Speaking of goalies, Xavier Prep’s Catherine Aguilar and La Quinta’s Arianna Rodriguez could get their team’s single-season record for most shutouts this year. They both have been stellar so far.
Liz Aguirre has scored nine goals this season for Palm Desert. She’ll be one to watch this season, as will defender Jordan Quattlebaum, who head coach Chris Keuilian recently praised as being one of the top up-and-coming players in the DVL.
Aileen Galicia, Rachel Polk and Carly Rendon are all key La Quinta returnees who will have chances in big moments this season. Kailee Prescott is a sophomore who could be the best player in the valley next season.
That’s just a sample of the players that should have a big influence on their team’s success in 2014. Several other players are also capable of having a big year.
“There are a lot of really good players in the league this year,” Coachella Valley head coach Francisco Morales said. “It feels like the talent grows every year.”