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ALL-COUNTY SOCCER TEAMS

Net Working

Credit Devine's Inspiration for Wolverines' Wins

March 13, 2001|MELANIE NEFF | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It takes more than being able to put the ball in the net to be considered the county's best player. It takes being a competitor, a sometimes cocky, strong-willed athlete who can not only score the goals, but also help her team reach its goals.

That describes Aliso Niguel's Kim Devine, the Times' Orange County girls' soccer player of the year.

It was the feisty forward's grit and determination that helped carry Aliso Niguel to its first Southern Section Division I title.

"She was a huge factor," Dodge said. "She was our attacking force. Her leadership and her desire to win were motivation factors for other players on the team, and she kept us going."

It wasn't easy for Devine and the Wolverines. One of the county's top-rated teams at the beginning of the season, they limped through the first half of the year, struggling with injuries to several key players.

Standout sophomore midfielder Stacy Lindstrom, a member of the under-19 national team, had knee surgery and missed more than half the season. Then junior forward Tessa Baker missed several Sea View League games because of a sprained ankle.

That placed the offensive burden on Devine, who finished the season with 23 goals and 17 assists.

It was the first time since her freshman year that she played injury-free the entire season. But it was Devine's leadership that helped keep her teammates together when they struggled with their short-handed roster.

"Kim had to step up and shoulder the load for a lot of the season," Dodge said. "She was our only offense at times and she was productive in every game. She got so used to having to do it all, that it helped enhance the play of Stacy and Tessa when they came back."

It took a midseason wake-up call, however, to get the Wolverines back on track. After a dismal, ninth-place performance in the Excalibur tournament, which they entered as the county's top-ranked team, they lost two of their first four matches in Sea View League play.

"There was a point when we had to question what our purpose was," said Devine, 17. "We had to refocus. After we lost to Newport Harbor, we had to do some real soul searching."

Dodge changed his team's goals. Instead of focusing on the league title, he challenged his players to win the Division I title.

That was all it took. They beat Newport Harbor in the final game of the regular season to clinch second in league and the No. 3 seeding in the playoffs. In their first three playoff games, they outscored their opponents, 16-1, and then upset second-seeded Capistrano Valley, 2-0 in a semifinal match.

Devine assisted on the game-winning goal against the Cougars, which came with six minutes remaining. In the championship game, she scored a goal and set up the other in a 2-0 victory over Rancho Cucamonga.

Several dominate attackers put up big numbers this season, each scoring more than 20 goals. Simi Phull of Sunny Hills led the county with 44 goals, and Lauren Lappin at Loara was runner-up with 31. But Devine did more than score goals.

"Her tremendous work rate caused a lot of things to happen," Dodge said. "The girl can finish. She's at a big school and playing top competition and she was still able to put up big numbers, despite being marked and double-teamed by the best defenders every game."

And when teams concentrated on Devine, she got the ball to Baker or Lindstrom.

"Kim is a game-breaker," Capistrano Valley Coach Jack Peterson said. "She is the rare player you get with speed, power and skill. She knows how to put it together and get results. You can't argue with her ability to get it done this year."

Devine began playing soccer when she was 8. After two years with AYSO, she joined the under-11 So Cal Blues club team and has been playing with the San Juan Capistrano-based club ever since. She is a member of the Olympic Development Program regional team and next fall she will play at Brigham Young University, which she chose over Stanford, UCLA and Virginia.

And for those critics who believe Devine is cocky? Well, she admits she might be a little too competitive sometimes, but she can't help it. She loves soccer.

"It's frustrating when you know you are the better team on the field and you still don't get it done," Devine said. "So I'm just always working hard to get it done."

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