The timing of this year’s high school soccer season, delayed four months due to the pandemic, hasn’t been ideal for teams like the Mountain View High girls varsity, whose 23 members are playing club soccer simultaneously.
But it’s not all bad, according to coach Jeff Panos. He’s hopeful his young Spartans (only three seniors) will benefit from this six-week slate when their next season kicks off.
“I’m excited,” Panos said. “They’re starting to build chemistry with each other and I think we’ll be further along next November than we would have been if we didn’t have this COVID-driven season.”
The last time Mountain View played a full season, 2019-20, it won a Central Coast Section Division I title and landed the top seed in the Northern California Division III playoffs. Panos has reason to believe the Spartans can achieve similar success next year.
“This is a very talented group,” he said. “The building blocks are there to be a section contender next year.”
Junior Isabella Walker, who starts at right wing, agrees.
“This season was very short for us to work out our full potential as a team,” she said after the Spartans completed their fourth week of games, “and I expect that next year, we will be a strong contender for CCS.”
Walker, a third-year varsity starter, leads the team in assists with eight.
“Her athleticism in one year’s time has gone off the charts,” Panos said. “She’s faster and more physical than anyone she goes up against.”
Junior center forward/attacking midfielder Julia Webster, also in her third year on varsity, has four goals – a number matched only by freshman midfielder Freyja Arnarsdottir.
Center back Elechi Iroaga, another junior, anchors the defense.
“She’s amazing,” Panos said. “We haven’t met a striker she hasn’t been able to handle.”
Senior defender Erin Coyne handles many of the leadership duties – on and off the field.
“She’s the ‘everything player’ for us,” Panos said. “She’s the vocal glue and has helped the freshmen get to know everyone.”
The coach added that Eliana Katz has done an admirable job in goal (five shutouts) replacing injured starter Sophia Sasaki (broken thumb), a junior expected back this week.
Panos also praised a pair of sisters for the impact they’ve made on the field. Defender Abby Westcott, a junior, is “a really important player for us,” the coach said, while midfielder Hailey is “one of our super freshmen” and has two goals.
Another freshman, left wing Karena Shah, has scored a couple of goals as well.
Mountain View starts four freshmen and two sophomores, all of whom are getting valuable experience playing tough teams like Los Gatos in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division, the coach added.
The Spartans got off to a 3-0 start before falling to the Wildcats at home late last month.
“They’re a senior-heavy team,” Panos said of undefeated Los Gatos, which prevailed 3-1. “They played well against us, but I think our youth showed.”
After playing Homestead to a scoreless tie in its next game, Mountain View opened April with a pair of 4-0 wins against Palo Alto and rival Los Altos. Panos called the victory over Paly “our best performance of the season.”
But a day after routing Los Altos on the road, the Spartans stumbled at home against Gunn April 7. The Titans beat them 2-0.
“That was very surprising,” said Panos, whose squad enters this week with a 5-2-1 record. “Playing back-to-back days is very difficult, and we made some mistakes that were characteristics of a young team.”
Mountain View hosts Homestead 3:30 p.m. Friday.