Youth movement nets big results

At the base of the Angeles National Forest in the foothills overlooking the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, is Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in Flintridge-La Canada.

Although the school is down the hill from where the recent mudslides have caused several hundred homes to be evacuated, the team has felt the effects.

"The school is on the other side of the freeway from the worst hit area but it was closed for a day and one of our games was cancelled by the early heavy rains -- and three of our kids families have been evacuated more than once from the mudslides," said 12th year Tologs co-coach Frank Pace. Pace works with Kathy Desmond, a former college player and the academic dean at the all-girls school, who is in her 16th year coaching.

All the distractions haven't seemed to bother the young Tologs, who currently have a 16-1-3 record. The lone loss was 1-0 to ESPN RISE FAB 50 No. 11 Bishop's of La Jolla.

Three week's ago, the team that starts seven sophomores, one freshman and whose first two players off the bench are freshman, accomplished a first for the school.

"We've had a good program for a long time but when we got No. 44 in the ESPN RISE rankings that was the first time we've ever been ranked," Pace said.

Then, on Jan. 25, the girls pulled off a big win, defeating Mission League rival Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood. That win jumped the Tologs up to No. 14 in last week's rankings.

Since then the team is 4-0-1 and hasn't allowed a goal in any of the contests. This week, the girls checked in at No. 13 in the FAB 50

So just how does a team with so much youth compete with nationally ranked teams that possess seasoned older girls?

"A lot of the girls played club together and came out of the AYSO program together, but really, the primary key is that they're really good," said Pace, and he should know talent.

The television and movie producer by day, and former broadcaster, was a goalkeeper on the Jacksonville University team back in the days basketball great Artis Gilmore starred at the Florida school.

Leading the Tologs' super-sophomore bunch are forwards Katie Johnson and Breeana Koemans. The pair has accounted for more than half of the team's goals.

Johnson has 14 goals and three assists and Koemans has 11 goals and 11 assists.

Two more sophomores who have contributed a lot are Jill Jacobs and Tera Trujillo. Jacobs has seven goals and four assists, while Trujillo has scored three times with five assists.

Junior co-captain Natalie Zeenni leads a solid defense that has only allowed eight goals in 20 matches this season.

One of the few seniors on the team is Dominique Oro. In 1,240 minutes of action the Cal State Northridge-bound goalkeeper has only allowed six goals and has registered eight shutouts, currently including six-straight starting with Harvard-Westlake.

"We were fortunate in that last year we had a senior-laden team that sent four girls on to college programs. They passed on the history and tradition of the program to this team," said Pace, who had his very interesting personal story chronicled in a 2008 story in the Los Angeles Times.

"Being ranked and recognized by ESPN RISE is great for the school and great for the kids. It's a big honor," continued Pace.

"It puts more onus on the kids. We've got a young team that's going to get a lot better and has a shot against anyone. Now, our goal is to be No. 1 in the nation."