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Powerful Buena Seeking to Build on Perfection


Coach Trish Butterbaugh can't recall a time in her five years at Buena High when her girls' soccer team didn't dominate.

This season will be no different. The Bulldogs again are the No. 1 team in the region.

"If a team doesn't know us they are going to try to play with us and they will be in big trouble," Butterbaugh said. "There are probably some college teams we could beat. We could beat Division II and III teams for sure. Most of my players are going to Division I schools. My [junior varsity] kids would be starters at other schools."

For 15 years, the Bulldogs have been the model for every high school team in the region. They've won two Southern Section titles, advanced to the playoffs every year since 1986, won eight consecutive Channel League championships and topped it off last season with a 32-0 record and a Division II title.

Buena is shooting for its first national ranking and the state record for consecutive victories.

The record is 48, set by Torrance from 1990-92. In 1988-89, Agoura had a 41-game winning streak. The Chargers hold the state record for the longest unbeaten streak at 91 games, putting together an 83-0-8 record from 1986-90.

Standing in the Bulldogs' way is a competitive field in the Mater Dei tournament, including Capistrano Valley, which was ranked No. 2 in the nation last season by USA Today. Buena will play defending Division III champion Lakewood Mayfair, Division I semifinalist Anaheim Esperanza and Santa Ana Foothill.

Leaders for Buena include Natalie Sanderson, a senior All-American forward and under-18 national team player who was The Times' regional player of the year last season; Lerin Mundell, an all-region senior defender; and Ashleigh Garmon, an all-region senior forward.

Second-team all-region selections Lisa Engel, a senior midfielder, and Megan Boys, a sophomore defender, are among 10 returning starters from last season's squad that won a school-record three tournaments and scored 132 goals. Sophomore Stephanie Border, Ventura's top player, transferred to Buena.

Other key players include senior midfielder Brittney McDonald and junior defender Brianna Squires.

"I have 16 starters," Butterbaugh said. "On any given day, anyone could start and make a difference. The girls are going to be tough to beat. They have a lot of chemistry."

Butterbaugh's biggest concern is tightening the defense. The Bulldogs allowed 18 goals last season, too many according to the coach.

A look at other top teams in the region:

Westlake: Aerick Brown brought the Warriors to new levels as coach. Can first-year Coach Frank Marino, who has no varsity experience, do the same?

The Warriors graduated all-region midfielder Jenna Wirtz and sweeper Kris Von Krog, who anchored the region's best defense. Westlake yielded a school-record low six goals, an average of 0.26 per game, and had 18 shutouts.

The key for the Warriors to win their third consecutive Marmonte League title will be finishing on offense. If seniors Jenna Ainsworth and Sara Silver-Hill can score, Westlake will be tough to beat. Pacific-bound Katie McCurdy may be the best defender in the region.

Chaminade: The Eagles have won four consecutive Division IV titles but have some huge holes to fill. Gone is all-region goalkeeper Sara Leibowitz and Liz Buhn, Mission League defensive player of the year. Senior Katie Thomas may be as talented as Leibowitz, but didn't see much playing time after December last season.

For Chaminade to remain among the elite, Washington-bound Kim Taylor, who struggled through ankle injuries last season, must remain healthy. Complementing Taylor is senior Tara Donoghue, the team's leading scorer last season.

Harvard-Westlake: The Wolverines will try to bounce back from a stunning loss in the Division IV semifinals and attempt to capture their fourth Mission League title in five years.

To be successful, they need to find a goalkeeper. Coach Ned Smith believes freshman Dana Reyes could be a force in the net.

Gone are All-American Imani Dorsey and Molly Chan, the league's offensive player of the year, but an array of talented newcomers could pick up the slack. Leaders include juniors Jill Oakes and Kim LaVere, and sophomore forward Tracy Lansing. Sophomores Gina Farias-Eisner and Lindsey Kimura dominated as freshmen last season.

Louisville: In his fourth year, Coach Jose Perez finally realized his biggest wish--a true goal scorer in Megan Merritt, one of the region's most highly regarded freshmen. The Royals can also count on juniors Jenny Farenbaugh and Carrie Schuler, a midfielder who led the team last season. Junior April Millado will move to defense to fill the void left by all-region selection Nicole Farenbaugh.

Chatsworth: The Chancellors have the talent to win their sixth consecutive City Section title and 11th in 13 years. Since the team's inception in 1989, the Chancellors have never lost a league game and have their sights set on a Dec. 7 showdown with Harvard-Westlake to prove they can play with top Southern Section teams.

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