A number of Coachella Valley area soccer teams appear to be the big winners after the California Interscholastic Federation implemented a new formula for creating competitive postseason balance this school year.
Six valley teams were either the first or second seed in their respective divisions Monday, when the CIF-SS released its playoff pairings, and a number of other teams appear to have a favorable path that could lend to deep postseason runs.
Among the top seeds is the Desert Mirage (20-4) boys’ team, which went 26-0 last year and won the Division 6 title. The Rams lost eight starters, but returned All-CIF striker Alex Pimentel and All-CIF goalkeeper Jesus Negrete. The squad was moved up to Division 4 this year, but still managed to land the top seed in their bracket, and are riding a 10-game win streak. They’ll play the winner of Muir and Littlerock.
The La Quinta (18-2-4) girls also secured the top seed in Division 4, and will await the winner of Grand Terrace and Valley View for a home game Thursday. It’s the third time in five years that the Blackhawks have been the top seed. Could this be the year they reach a CIF final?
“No game is going to be easy,” La Quinta head coach Bob Quattlebaum said last week. “We’ll have to bring our energy and intensity every game when playoffs come.”
The Palm Desert (16-4-4) and Cathedral City (16-10-1) girls soccer teams are seeded 1-2 in Division 5. The Aztecs will host Rowland and the Lions will travel to Covina in the opening round.
Despite a loss last Tuesday to Coachella Valley that prevented the Rattlers from claiming sole possession of the De Anza League title, the girls’ team at Rancho Mirage (14-7-2) will enter the Division 7 bracket as the second seed. They will play the winner of Rancho Alamitos and Fairmont Prep at home on Thursday.
Lastly, the La Quinta boys will enter the Division 2 bracket as the second seed, despite a 1-0 loss to rival Palm Desert and a tie with Palm Springs in the last week of the regular season. The Blackhawks will host Chaffey on Friday.
In all there will be five home playoff games in the valley on Friday – with Cathedral City hosting Patriot, Coachella Valley High at home against Colony and Desert Christian Academy hosting a wild card. Desert Hot Springs will play at Ontario Christian in Division 6, Palm Desert will play at El Rancho and Palm Springs will travel to South Torrance in Division 5.
On the girls’ side, Palm Desert will host Rowland and Cathedral City will travel to Covina in Division 5 on Thursday. Shadow Hills will be on the road against Beaumont and Cathedral City will host Century in Division 6.
In all, 14 teams from the Coachella Valley will be in action this week, with nine of them playing at home. Times for the games are 3 p.m. or 5 p.m., and will be determined by the home team.
Coin flips for the second round will be held Thursday, Feb. 16. The CIF semifinals will be Feb, 28, with dates and locations for the finals to be determined later.
A number of teams from the valley have legitimate CIF title aspirations, and a few even have players who’ve already one a ring. The La Quinta boys, who won a title in 2015, will be seeking the school’s third in soccer, while Desert Mirage will bee looking to win back-to-back championships.
The quest begins later this week.
“Every game counts from here on out,” Desert Mirage head coach Peter Zamora said after his team’s regular season finale. “It’s going to be a challenge, but I know my boys are up for it.”
*This story has been modified from its original version, to include six teams, not four, from the Coachella Valley who will have a top seed in the CIF playoffs.