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Aliso Niguel Hasn't Let Goof Main Goal

Girls: Filling void left by Devine and Baker won't be easy, but top-ranked Wolverines hope to weather early schedule and defend title.


When he took over the Aliso Niguel High girls' soccer program five years ago, Randy Dodge wanted his team to forge a reputation among Orange County soccer powerhouses.

He's done it. Aliso Niguel, the defending Southern Section Division I champion, opens its season this week as The Times' top-ranked team--and No. 1 in one national poll.

The challenge is staying there.

Kim Devine, last year's Division I player of the year, has graduated. And Tessa Baker, another top player, moved to Washington. As defending champion, Aliso Niguel is a marked team--opponents will be geared up to try for an upset.

"Everyone wants to knock us off our perch," Dodge said.

When he took over Aliso Niguel's program in 1997, Dodge's goal was to take a team that had routinely finished in the middle of the Sea View League standings and turn it into a league champion. Now he'd like to make being section champion routine.

Aliso Niguel has lost only six games in the past five years, but the Wolverines won't be able to cruise this season. Already they lost a scrimmage last week to Dana Hills. And their early season schedule includes tough competition in the Mater Dei and Excalibur tournaments in December.

Dodge said he is prepared to take a few early losses if it will help Aliso Niguel prepare for the playoffs.

"We are not the team we were before. With Kim and Tessa gone, other players are going to have to step up," he said.

"We are still learning what it means to be the Division I champion," Dodge said. "The team has a little swagger to them and that can sometimes hurt you."

The Wolverines return a strong backfield and a seasoned goalie in Marissa Welliver.

The challenge will be to fill the scoring void left by Devine and Baker.

Stacy Lindstrom is expected to be a big contributor. She sat out most of last season while recovering from a knee injury, but returned to score 13 goals in the final 11 games.

Lindstrom is so talented that she petitioned the NCAA in August to recognize her as a senior, so she can skip a year of high school and start college at UCLA in September.

"Lindstrom is incredible, obviously their go-to girl and part of our plan is to try to contain her," said Coach Ron Evans, whose seventh-ranked Corona del Mar team plays at Aliso Niguel on Thursday.

Dodge said he's expecting more from Lindstrom, looking to Sereena Warino and Raleigh Coakley, "and hoping someone else steps up" to boost Aliso Niguel's scoring.

"My goal when I came here was to be competitive every year, and to put our program on the map," the coach said.

"[Now] I hope we can deal with the pressure of being on top and repeat."



A preseason look at the Southland's top 10 girls' soccer teams:

1. Aliso Niguel (SS--Sea View)

Defending Southern Section Division I champion returns six starters.

2. Santa Margarita (SS--Serra) Led by UCLA-bound Katie Rivera, Eagles have five players who have made commitments to major college programs.

3. Capistrano Valley (SS--South Coast)

Loaded with talent and extra focused after not reaching the finals last season for the first time in three years.

4. Irvine Woodbridge (SS--Sea View)

Led by midfielder Ina Kain, the Warriors are strong--but need to win big games. They lost in the first round of the playoffs last season.

5. Arcadia (SS--Pacific)

San Gabriel Valley's top team looking to bounce back after being upset last season in Division I quarterfinal.

6. Buena (SS--Channel)

Led by Shameka Alford, Buena is primed for another Division II championship.

7. Corona del Mar (SS--Pacific Coast)

Allison Harvey and Elisha Morgan, both first-team CIF players, return hoping to lead Sea Kings deeper than the Division IV semifinals.

8. Rancho Cucamonga (SS--Mt. Baldy)

Goalkeeper Leslie Griffiths and defender Jessica Brodzki are key players back from a team that lost in the Division I title game last year.

9. Newport Harbor (SS--Sea View)

Amy Ross and Amy Burlingham expect to carry the load during a tough league schedule.

10. Harvard-Westlake (SS--Mission)

Division IV co-champion returns several starters, including Jill Oakes, who is headed to UCLA.

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