When asked if her Mountain View High girls soccer team has any weaknesses, senior forward Isabella Walker paused for a moment before answering.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
Those who have seen the Spartans play – or simply glanced at their roster – would probably agree.
Off to a 3-0-1 start, the team is teeming with talent and experience.
Mountain View returns 10 starters. The roster of 28 features 13 seniors, including three – Walker, Julia Webster and Sophia Sasaki – who have played integral roles since they were freshmen.
As an added bonus, seniors Allie Montoya and Charis Toney are back in the fold after devoting the past two years to playing elite-level club soccer.
Freshman phenom Laila Edris and stellar sophomores Freyja Arnarsdottir and Karena Shah headline a formidable group of underclassmen.
Jeff Panos, in his third season as coach, said this is “for sure” the best team he’s had at Mountain View, and it ranks “among the top three or four” of his 24-year coaching career.
Guiding a team of this caliber still comes with challenges, though.
“It’s tough to decide who plays,” he said. “Not everyone is going to get as much playing time as they’d like, so they have to buy into the team concept.”
Walker doesn’t expect that to be a problem.
“We have such great team chemistry,” she said. “It is a huge team, but I think it’s good to keep all the sophomores together.”
Many of the Spartans’ nine sophomores have been playing together for years in club, and Panos said having them on the team now will pay off next season.
Last season, Mountain View played only 12 games due to the pandemic and placed second to Los Gatos in the SCVAL De Anza Division at 8-2-2. There were no playoffs.
Two seasons ago, the Spartans won the Central Coast Section Division I title after being denied a berth in the Open Division, which comprises the top eight teams. Their lofty goals for this year include an Open invitation.
“We want to get back to the top of the SCVAL – we haven’t done that for at least three years – qualify for Open and NorCal after that,” Panos said.
Not that Mountain View is looking that far ahead, according to Walker.
“We hope to do all that,” she said, “but we’re focused on the present right now – winning each game and doing our best.”
The Spartans kicked off the season with wins over Willow Glen and Menlo, then played St. Francis to a 1-all tie Dec. 7 in the Fremont Firebird Classic. Down 1-0 early, the Spartans knotted the game on Montoya’s penalty kick in the 60th minute. The Stanford University commit scored both goals in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Los Gatos.
Montoya has a team-high five goals for the season.
“We have two of the best wingers in Allie and Isabella,” Panos said. “Their speed and technical skill are hard to match up with.”
Walker is among seven players on the squad with at least one goal. That group includes midfielder Edris, who knocked in the game-winner against Menlo and has a team-best five assists.
“She’s active and aggressive on the ball,” Panos said of the freshman. “She’s a great addition who fits in well.”
And it’s only a matter of time before Webster gets a goal; the attacker has 14 in her high school career. Montoya (23) and Walker (18) are the only current Spartans to score more.
Mountain View can defend as well, having allowed just two goals so far. Backline standouts include senior Elechi Iroaga – whom Panos called “our stalwart in the back,” and team captain Abby Westcott. Northwestern-bound Toney, recovering from an injury, is expected to join this unit soon. Goalie Sasaki recorded five saves against St. Francis.
The Spartans open league play at home against district rival Los Altos 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Before returning to school from the holiday break, Mountain View travels to Fresno to take on Bullard Dec. 28 and hosts Menlo-Atherton 11 a.m. Dec. 30.
Panos said he scheduled the overnight trip to Bullard for bonding purposes – an idea Walker endorses.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I think it will help with the chemistry of the team.”