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Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Which winter-season leagues top the list?

By Sheldon Shealer

Kerri Hanks
Kerri Hanks, a two-time Hermann Trophy winner, played at Allen (Texas).
How do you define a great high school girls’ soccer conference?

Is it the number of championships conference members compile? Is it the competitiveness from top to bottom in a league? Is it the non-league performance of conference members? Is it based on the number of players moving on to college soccer? Perhaps it is some combination of the above?

ESPNHS lays out an argument for the following five conferences that can be considered the best winter high school soccer leagues in the country.

Chioma Ubogagu
Chioma Ubogagu was named to the Soccer America All-Freshmen first team for 2011.
Texas District 7-5A
Members:
Southlake Carroll (Southlake, Texas), Coppell (Texas), Fossil Ridge (Texas), Guyer (Denton), Keller (Texas), Keller Central (Keller, Texas), Northwest (Justin, Texas), Saginaw (Texas).
The Pitch: District members, and even numbers, have changed over time, yet this collection of teams between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, acquitted themselves quite well in recent years. Carroll and Coppell have delivered state championships in 2008 and 2009. While this might appear as a top-heavy league, the rest of the membership has fared quite well this year. In fact, the teams are a combined 44-11-8 against non-league foes this season. And when it comes to talent, recent Coppell grad Chioma Ubogagu was a standout freshman starter on Stanford’s national title-winning program this past fall.

Texas District 8-5A
Members:
Allen (Texas), Flower Mound (Texas), Hebron (Texas), Lewisville (Texas), Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas), Plano (Texas), Plano East (Plano, Texas), Plano West (Plano, Texas).
The Pitch: Historically speaking, this is Texas’ marquee collection of programs. Marcus, Plano and Plano West have combined for nine state titles since 1986 – six of those titles coming between 1997 and 2007. Like District 7-5A, teams in this district have changed alignment over the years and thus have not always been part of the same league. Currently, Flower Mound, Marcus, Plano East and Plano West are members of the POWERADE FAB 50. Allen, Hebron and Plano have been FAB 50 members in recent years, as well. This season, the league’s eight teams are a combined 51-13-11 in non-league matches and all eight teams have winning records. Kerri Hanks, a two-time Hermann Trophy winner, is the most recognizable alum from this group of schools.

East Bay Athletic Conference (California)
Members:
Amador Valley (Pleasanton, Calif.), California (San Ramon, Calif.), Carondelet (Concord, Calif.), Foothill (Pleasanton, Calif.), Granada (Livermore, Calif.), Livermore (Calif.), Monte Vista (Danville, Calif.), San Ramon Valley (Danville, Calif.).
The Pitch: When it comes to high school soccer in Northern California, there’s no debating this league’s standing. Seven of the eight league members have won North Coast Section titles, and those teams have combined to win 29 of the 30 NCS large-school titles ever contested. San Ramon Valley leads the way with six NCS titles, followed by five each from Amador Valley, Granada and Monte Vista. Beyond the titles, the league annually puts five members in the playoffs. Over the past five years, the EBAL has produced 14 of the 20 NCS semifinalists. Four of the past five NCS title matches have been showdowns between EBAL teams. This year, the EBAL is 27-5-6 against non-EBAL programs.

Kelley Monogue
Kelley Monogue, like Chioma Ubogagu, was a first-team All-Freshman selection this past season.
Palomar League (California)
Members:
Mount Carmel (San Diego), Poway (Calif.), Ramona (Calif.), Rancho Bernardo (San Diego), Torrey Pines (San Diego), Westview (San Diego).
The Pitch: The Palomar League produced last year’s Southern California Regional Division I champion in Torrey Pines. This year, Westview is looking like a serious challenger for that honor. Torrey Pines has won 14 of the past 25 CIF-San Diego Division I crowns, and last year’s team sent players to the likes of UCLA, Duke and Texas A&M. Palomar teams are 24-12-5 against non-league teams this year. While Westview and Torrey Pines are the class of the league, the difference from top to bottom is rather thin. In fact, the first-place team just defeated the last-place team 2-1 last week, and the No. 5 team has a win over No. 2.

South Coast League (California)
Members:
Aliso Niguel (Aliso Viejo), El Toro (Lake Forest, Calif.), Mission Viejo (Calif.), San Clemente (Calif.), Trabuco Hills (Mission Viejo, Calif.).
The Pitch: Aliso Niguel and San Clemente are perennial top 25 programs. In fact, both have held No. 1 at various times over the past 10 years. The new South Coast might not be as strong as years past, but it still is offers a pair of teams considered strong challengers for the CIF-Southern Section Division I title. South Coast League teams are 34-16-13 in non-league matches this season.

Other Leagues Considered:
Interscholastic League of Honolulu:
With Iolani (Honolulu), Kamehameha (Honolulu) and Punahou (Honolulu), this league has claimed the last 10 Hawaii Division I state titles. The league gets two playoff bids and this year those teams – Kamehameha and Iolani – worked their way through the bracket to meet for the state title.

Mission League in the Los Angeles area: This league is highlighted by Flintridge-Sacred Heart (La Canada, Calif.) and Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.).

Trinity League in Orange County, Calif.: This collection of five private school programs features Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) and Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.). The teams are 36-21-11 this year in non-league play.