The girls’ soccer team at Shadow Hills High School won the De Anza League and reached the California Interscholastic Federation Division 7 quarterfinals for the second-consecutive time a year ago, and this season, moved into the Desert Valley League for a shot to compete with some of the preeminent teams in the Coachella Valley.
“We’ve been waiting for this for three years, really,” assistant coach Jorge Gutierrez said after Thursday’s 3-3 home tie against Colton High. “We’re ready for it.”
The Knights, who have finished with a 38-6-3 record over the last two seasons, are 1-1-1 to start this year, as coaches shuffle lineups to get players conditioned and ready for the DVL slate. Shadow Hills opened the season with a 3-0 win over Coachella Valley High, then lost to Beaumont, 4-2, before Thursday’s game.
Sophomore Mason Stansbury scored a pair of goals for the Knights and freshman Katelyn Christiansen added the other. The Knights took a late lead with Stansbury’s second goal, but allowed a second-half score off a corner kick, and another on a strike from about 30 yards out to end the game with the score tied.
Gutierrez, who works with head coach Wilmer Cabezas, said the squad was without 2015 De Anza League Offensive Player of the Year Luz Quezada, who injured a hamstring, and that the majority of the roster played, which included six freshman and six sophomores.
“We’re still figuring some things out,” Gutierrez said. “We returned a lot of talented players, but we’re getting comfortable with each other and hopefully that won’t take long.”
The DVL lost a 16-win Coachella Valley High squad, who moved to the De Anza League in place of Shadow Hills, but the top three teams in the league will all return several starters. That includes La Quinta, the DVL champs, Palm Desert, which lost the league title in a late-season head-to-head game against the Blackhawks, and Cathedral City, who returns the league’s reigning Player of the Year in junior Azalea Guanajuato.
Shadow Hills, though, played deeper into the postseason than any of those teams, and returns, among others, Quezada, and Stansbury, who was an all-league performer as a freshman a year ago.
The Knights will get their first chance to see how they stack up in the DVL when they face La Quinta on Dec. 16.
“I think that’s the game everyone is looking forward to,” Gutierrez said. “We are, for sure, and they are because they know we have been looking forward to this game.”
Shadow Hills will then face Yucca Valley in the Cathedral City tournament on Dec. 20, then play against Laguna Beach at home on Dec. 29. The DVL slate will begin on Jan. 4 in what could be the start of a crosstown rivalry at Indio.
The Knights had a 17-game unbeaten streak in 2014-15, and a 14-game win streak last year. It may be tougher to do such things this season, in what some believe to be a tougher league, but coaches believe the competition will be good for their young squad, and they hope it will prepare the players for another deep CIF run come March.
“We’re still in Division 7, and that could be a good thing,” Gutierrez said. “Hopefully we stay healthy and just show improvement as the season progresses.”