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Club Teams Take Bite Out of San Clemente

Girls' soccer: Tritons expected to be among county's best despite decision by three talented freshmen not to play.


At the beginning of last season, all San Clemente players wanted was a little respect.

They got that and more, earning their first trip to the girls' soccer playoffs in school history and advancing to the Southern Section Division I quarterfinals. The Tritons finished second in the tough South Coast League, with their only league losses to Division I champion Capistrano Valley.

Many coaches, including Capistrano Valley's Jack Peterson, said the Tritons were the team of the future because of the talented club players coming up in the ranks.

But while San Clemente is a preseason top-10 team and expected to be a strong contender in Division I, Coach Stacey Juhl's team suffered a major setback when three top freshman players were forced to quit because of pressure from their club coaches.

"It is extremely disappointing," Juhl said. "I coach club and I would never do that to my kids. High school is fun. It's all about friends and school spirit and it gives the girls a chance to play against others older than them."

Club coaches pressuring players not to compete in high school soccer concerns Juhl, who worries about harm to the high school game.

"We could be seeing the beginning of the end" of prep soccer, Juhl said. "And it's really too bad. It is two different seasons and there is no reason why the kids can't do both. The girls will miss out on a lot of the high school experience. But I guess it's the wave of the future."

Besides the freshmen, the Tritons also lost their two leading scorers to graduation, Whitney Jones and Emily Ernsdorf, both playing for UCLA.

The good news for the Tritons is the addition of junior forward Sara Davis, a regional Olympic Development player who transferred to San Clemente from Manhattan Beach Mira Costa. She will join six returning starters, including goalkeeper Ally Berger and forwards Brittani Emerson and Patricia Gallamas.

And unlike last season when the Tritons' goal was just to make the playoffs, the expectations are higher.

"We are looking for the league title and another trip to the playoffs," Juhl said.


Other teams to watch:

Capistrano Valley is the favorite to repeat as Division I champion, despite graduating one of the best senior classes in recent history. The Cougars have restocked nicely with several experienced players. . . . Aliso Niguel may give the Cougars a run for the title, with one of the most potent front lines in the county. The Wolverines handed Capistrano Valley its only loss last season. However, Aliso Niguel will be without an experienced goalkeeper because of the transfer of Taryn Acosta. . . . Mission Viejo, along with San Clemente, could battle Capistrano Valley for the South Coast League title. The Diablos return all-county player Kendall Billingsley to lead a strong midfield.

Edison returns nine starters and will fight it out with Esperanza for the Sunset League title. . . . An up-and-coming Corona del Mar team is hoping to gain a little respect this year after advancing to the Division IV semifinals. The Sea Kings return eight starters, led by first-team all-county defender Molly O'Meara. . . . Santa Margarita will be strong as always, and should have a good run through Division III.

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