Although smoky skies prevented the Mountain View High girls soccer team from practicing for nine days last month, it didn’t stop the Spartans from improving before their season kicked off.
Most of those days, coach Ivan Bandov gathered his girls indoors for tactical discussions and to play icebreaker games.
“It helped the chemistry a lot,” said the team’s seventh-year coach. “Everyone got to know each other better, which is important with so many new kids.”
Mountain View’s 20-player roster includes nine new members. Six of them are freshmen, including standout striker Allie Montoya, who believes those indoor sessions will pay off.
“Getting to know everyone off the field helps us on the field,” she said.
Based on Montoya’s performance in the Spartans’ season opener last week, a 4-0 home win over rival Los Altos, she’s already clicking with her new teammates. Montoya assisted on the first three goals.
“I was a little nervous at first,” she said, “but as the game went on, I felt more of a connection (with my teammates) and got comfortable.”
Her initial assist came five minutes into the non-league game on a pass to senior Sydney Arrillaga. Montoya had two more before halftime, setting up goals by Sistine Noel and Janvi Subramanyan.
“She’s a very special player,” Bandov said of Montoya, who played on the under-15 girls national team last summer. “Her timing to beat someone is impeccable and the ball sticks to her foot.”
Montoya is among the infusion of freshmen talent expected to aid the Spartans’ pursuit of a sixth straight Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division title and a fifth consecutive appearance in the Central Coast Section finals. Isabella Walker – who had two assists in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Christopher at the Fremont Firebird Classic – is the first forward off the bench and fellow freshman Charis Toney – whom Bandov called “one of the best defenders we’ve had” – will start at center back once she returns from an injury next month.
Another freshman, Sophia Sasaki, is vying with senior Renee Landa and junior Abby Hahn to be the team’s top goalie. Landa was the primary starter last year and Hahn backed her up.
“It’s good competition,” said Bandov, who anticipated making a decision by the fifth game.
Defenders Sarah Davenport and Erin Alexander – a senior and junior, respectively, who serve as team captains – anchor a back line that should only get stronger once Toney and junior Shannon Gould (out until February) are healthy.
Senior Sydney Arrillaga and sophomore Noel play prominent roles in the midfield. UC Santa Barbara-bound Arrillaga, a returning starter, “has been terrific,” Bandov said. “I can’t use enough words to describe her as a player and a person.” Noel, out last season with an injury, “is a talented player who’s going to be a big part of this team,” the coach added.
Up front, junior Subramanyan and sophomore Maru Lasala start alongside Montoya. Subramanyan tallied 10 goals and seven assists as a reserve last year (the four Spartans who scored more goals have graduated).
While Mountain View certainly seems capable of contending for another CCS crown, Bandov isn’t thinking that far ahead. He’s focused on winning league first, then “if we’re healthy and continue to improve, that should give us a chance to compete at CCS time in February,” he said.
Montoya likes their chances.
“I think we can go all the way this year,” she said. “The team is really good.”
The Spartans are scheduled to face St. Ignatius 6:40 p.m. Thursday in the Firebird Classic.