As the college soccer season hits its stretch drive, let's take a look at some of the most dominant players in Southern California this year, no matter the division.
Here are 10 who enjoyed marvelous campaigns:
Cal Poly Pomona
Who is he? Senior striker from Long Beach (Millikan HS), the national JC Player of the Year at Cerritos College and soon-to-be two-time All-American in two seasons with the Broncos.
What has he done? Scored 14 goals this year and 26 in two seasons at Cal Poly Pomona, winning the California Collegiate Athletic Association's Most Valuable Offensive Player award this fall.
Coachspeak: “I equate Luis Gonzalez to Magic Johnson,” Broncos coach Lance Thompson said, “and I do that because a heard a story about Magic where he was playing for his youth basketball team and they were winning and he was jumping for joy and excited and couldn't figure out why his teammates were so depressed. Well, if the team scored 70 points, he scored 68, and he learned a valuable lesson of giving and getting others involved so they could contribute, and he became one of the best assist guys ever. That's Luis. Luis takes more pride and has more joy in getting teammates involved than he does in scoring. And the more he gave, the more he received. That's what sets him apart over any other student-athlete I've coached.”
Who is she? Senior center back from Ramona (San Diego County), a University of Texas transfer expected to repeat as a Division I All-American.
What has she done? Set the standard at the back to lead the Anteaters to back-to-back Big West Conference titles, an NCAA sweet 16 appearance last year, and a return to the NCAA tournament this fall.
Coachspeak: “Coco's unique,” Anteaters coach Scott Juniper said. “She is the strongest player that I've seen in women's soccer. She strikes a ball better than many of the male players I've worked with, and she is just a relentless competitor. She's totally unique, and there isn't another player out there like her.”
Long Beach State
Who is she? Unflappable senior midfielder from Rancho Cucamonga (Los Osos HS), capable of playing nearly anywhere but at her best in the middle.
What has she done? Three-time All-Big West Conference selection (and this year's Midfielder of the Year) scored seven goals with 10 assists this year as Long Beach State has advanced to the second round in its third NCAA appearance in four years -- her collegiate totals: 17 and 24 -- but that merely hints at her impact in midfield, where she's chief orchestrator on the 49ers' attack.
Coachspeak: “She just keeps her eyes on the prize,” Long Beach coach Mauricio Ingrassia said. “Sometimes you worry about the young players, but she's always been exactly the same. What you is what you get. On the field, off the field, she's just been an amazing player for us. ... If there are good players around her, she'll make them better. If there are players who struggle, she'll bring those players up. She has a lot of intangibles.”
Who is he? Junior forward from Birmingham, Ala., who bounced back from a broken leg at the start of preparations for the 2010 season to become the Bruins' go-to finisher this fall.
What has he done? Scored 15 goals to lead seventh-ranked UCLA through a perfect Pac-12 campaign and into the NCAA tournament, with the opener Sunday against Virginia or Delaware. Add in his finish to the 2010 season and sparkling play last summer for the PDL's Orange County Blue Star, and he's tallied 33 times in his last 37 competitive matches.
Coachspeak: “He has such a knack for the goal,” Bruins coach Jorge Salcedo said. “More important, the timing of his running into the box, the timing where he positions himself makes him so lethal in front of the goal. ... He's not real big, not real fast, not real strong, she he has to be real smart, and that what he is. Most goalscorers, at the highest level, it's all about the first touch and the way you prepare the ball to finish. He's really adpet at preparing the ball in the right places to finish.”
Who is she? Senior forward from Vancouver, British Columbia, by way of Scottsdale, Ariz., a U.S. youth national teams superstar who is slowly integrating into the full U.S. national team.
What has she done? Almost everything. She played in FIFA's U-19 championship for Canada when she was 14, then won the Golden Ball (as MVP) and Golden Boot (as top scorer) after leading the U.S. to then title in the same event, now for U-20s, four years later. She's scored 16 goals to lead No. 2 UCLA into the second round of the NCAA tournament and has 57 in her collegiate career.
Coachspeak: “Sydney has grown up a lot this year, from the standpoint that she has such tremendous athletic ability that she's been able to rely on that athletic ability,” Bruins coach B.J. Snow said. “I think her dedication to become an overall soccer player, especially the last month and a half, has just blown me away.”
Cal State Dominguez Hills
Who is she? Diminutive senior forward from Torrance (West Torrance HS), whose speed and skill has torn apart opposing defenses -- to the tune of five goals in one game this season.
What has she done? Scored 14, 15, 15 and 15 goals in four seasons for the Toros, finishing just one off the school record while winning all-conference acclaim three times and the CCAA Most Valuable Offensive Player honor this fall although Dominguez Hills failed to qualify for the conference and NCAA tournaments.
Coachspeak: “She's been a player who can win games for you, from her freshman year to her senior year, and she kept us in the race all year,” Toros coach Joe Flanagan said. “Her abilities to dribble people and take people on one-one and her speed on the ball is second to none. She's not the fastest, but with the ball, she can do wonderful things. She's faster with the ball than without. And her ability to create scoring opportunities is probably the best I've seen at Dominguez.”
Who is she? Senior forward from Alta Loma (Los Osos HS), a target striker who won All-NAIA honors in the two seasons she completed without injury before the Lancers' move to NCAA Division II this season.
What has she done? Scored 13 goals with five assists to lead Cal Baptist to the Pacific West Conference title and into the NCCAA national tournament. That leaves her with 47 career goals, just one shy of the school mark.
Coachspeak: “Kylee is tremendous, she has great size and speed, and she's able to create outstanding scoring opportunities for herself and also for hr teammates,” Lancers coach Kristen St. Clair said. “She's a handful for defenses, has a nose for the goal, she's so dangerous in the air and does such a great job finishing and finishing those opportunities. We've gone up to Division II, and she's raised her game, too.”
Who is he? Tall (6-foot-2) junior forward from Garden Grove (La Quinta HS), a UC Santa Barbara transfer who made a big impact in his first year for the NAIA school from Irvine.
What has he done? Was the dominant attacking players in the Golden State Athletic Conference, scoring 18 goals with 12 assists to lead Concordia to the league's title game -- and a would-be NAIA championship contender, except somehow the 11th-ranked Eagles didn't make a 31-team field.
Coachspeak: “He's one of those kids, he's a student of the game and clearly understands the nuances of the position and how to make the team better with him on the field,” Concordia coach Chris Gould said. “Plus he's a natural goalscorer. He brings a dynamic to our team that's invaluable. Most important for us, he's a great person. He's a great leader, a good teammate and personifies what this program is about.”
UC Santa Barbara
Who is he? Senior forward from Los Angeles (Salesian HS) who developed with Pateadores and in Chivas USA's academy and led his high school to a Southern California Regional title, the closest thing to a state championship.
What has he done? Three-time All-Big West selection is the conference's Midfielder of the Year this season, scoring 16 goals with nine assists to lead the Gauchos into the NCAA tournament, in which it opens at home Saturday against Providence or Dartmouth.
Coachspeak: “What makes Luis Silva special is that he really, really understands the game and is able to do all things well,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said. He heads the ball well, he's got both feet, he runs well, he defends, he attacks, he can deliver a through ball, and he can score. There isn't a part of his game that he doesn't have. Combine that whole package with someone who really understands the game, and I think you've got a player who has a real bright future.”
Who is she? Freshman forward from Santa Maria (St. Joseph HS), a three-time All-CIF Southern Section selection with better-than-D3 abilities.
What has she done? Burst on the scene with 19 goals and eight assists to lead the Regals through a perfect Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference campaign, to a school-record 20 victories and into the NCAA Division III tournament.
Coachspeak: “She's athletic, but she's also got a very good sense of how to play football,” Cal Lutheran coach Frank Marino said. “She can score in multiple ways. She's really good in the box in terms of finishing, and her versatility makes her special. She's hard to defend, because she can score in a bunch of different fashions.”