Commentary

Santa Barbara, CV Christian have the touch

Updated: February 7, 2010, 6:05 PM ET
By Harold Abend | Special to ESPN RISE

This week we feature two streaking teams, one is the FAB 50 top-ranked boys team from the Golden State, and the other is a small school Central Valley girls' team that has etched its name into the ESPN RISE CalHiSports.com State Record Book & Almanac.

We start out in the historic and beautiful Pacific Ocean coastal city of Santa Barbara, home of the Santa Barbara Dons, currently 23-0-1 and ranked No. 4 in this past Tuesday's ESPN RISE FAB 50.

"We're absolutely proud of being ESPN RISE's top-ranked team from California. It's great to get recognition for the school and the program, and the kids have played really well," said coach Todd Heil, a teacher at Santa Barbara in his 11th season at the Dons' helm with five California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section titles.

"The biggest strength of this team has been the way the returning players have come together to create a fantastic chemistry," continued Heil, whose team lost in the Division II semifinals last season.

Senior striker Jesse Gonzalez, who is getting college looks, leads the team in scoring with 15 goals and 11 assists. Another forward college prospect is senior Christian Prado. He has 16 goals and five assists.

The player Heil thinks may have the best college potential is the backline anchor, junior centerback Tony Alfaro. He leads a defense that along with goalkeeper Justo Alvarado has notched 15 shutouts and only allowed eight goals all season.

"Tony is already being looked at by quite a few schools. His play has been very steady all year, and Justo has been playing great. He's gotten some looks and he's very quick, but he's not that tall. I'm sure there's a place he can play, though," remarked Heil.

About 200 miles as the crow flies, north and slightly east over the mountains from Santa Barbara, is the Central Valley farming community of Visalia, a city of over 100,000 in the middle of California's cotton growing region.

The Central Valley Christian of Visalia girls' soccer team isn't nationally-ranked, or even close.

The small Division IV school doesn't really mind. The girls are the pride of the community, queens of the Central Sequoia League, and with a 7-0 victory on Feb. 2 at Immanuel in Reedley (near Fresno), improved to 18-3 while notching their 82nd consecutive league victory, not having lost a league game since 2002.

They have a long way to go to catch the 1994-2003 Bonita of La Verne team and its 104-game winning steak, but their current total is No. 2 all-time, ahead of the 61-games of La Serna (Whittier) in the ESPN RISE CalHiSports.com State Record Book Almanac's list of longest league winning streaks.

"We have a great and very talented group of girls who are part of this winning steak," said Central Valley Christian coach Jacob DeGroot, who led the Cavaliers to four straight CIF Central section titles before they lost in the Division IV title game last season

If the Cavaliers girls are to make it back for a fifth section crown, three seniors will need to keep up their excellent play

Rebekah Gonsales, a forward who is probably going to Trinity College (Chicago), is the team's leading scorer with 16 goals.

Midfielder Elizabeth Vannette is the teams assist leader and is looking at Calvin College in Michigan.

"Elizabeth is the workhorse and heart of the team. A lot of the other girls goals are a result of her hard work," DeGroot said.

Another player of note according to the coach is midfielder Brianna Westly. She will be attending Concordia University in Irvine, Calif.

"We're about to hit the road for a non-league game at Mission Prep (a small school about a four-hour drive away in San Luis Obispo), so that's the game we're thinking about now, DeGroot said. "But from day one the goal has been to get back to the title game and win the section."

As for the league winning streak, in case we forget, athletic director Ryan Tos has promised to keep us updated.

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