La Costa Canyon girls off to promising start in bid for repeat soccer title
There’s a well-used axiom in the sports world speculating that “it’s easier to win a title than to defend a title.” The La Costa Canyon girls soccer team is in the midst of finding out just how true that theory might be.
Last spring, in a season that was delayed by months due to Covid-19 health protocols, the Mavericks posted a 13-3-4 record, shared the Avocado West League crown with rival Torrey Pines (just two years after going 2-7-1 in league play) and then raced through three quality opponents without surrendering a goal to capture the CIF Open Division Championship. In the final, they knocked off Torrey Pines for the third consecutive time, 2-0.
A lot has changed since that late May triumph. Eight seniors graduated, including four now playing for NCAA D-I programs. The pandemic continues to create day-to-day challenges, the team had two games canceled, one by Covid, another to weather, and injuries have tested LCC’s depth.
Most significantly in the latter category, three returning starters, senior center back Casey DeHaan (ACL), sophomore winger CeCe Egan (ankle) and sophomore center midfielder Mia DiGiulio (ACL) have been sidelined for the season.
Head Coach Ryan Morissey has been calm in the middle of the storm. “We’re not alone, everyone in the league kind of seems like they’re in the same boat,” said the third-year mentor. “We’ve taken the mentality that the next player just has to step up, the bus needs to keep rolling.
“We’ve promoted some girls from the junior varsity, we still expect to try to win the league (now the six-team North County Coastal), make it into the CIF Open Division bracket and give it a good run.”
One other thing that’s different than last year—the Mavericks are not going to be sneaking up on anyone. While the 2021 CIF banner may have been startling to many, La Costa Canyon came into the current campaign as a known commodity.
“We graduated a huge class, both in size and talent, so we’ve got a lot of young players,” said Morissey. “For some of the younger kids, it’s still a bit of a learning experience, especially understanding that every team’s gunning for us and that, as defending CIF champions, we have to prove ourselves, every night,”
“But I think by now they understand the talent level on varsity and the expectations that come with being part of our program.”
Fortunately for Morissey, a lot of things have remained status quo. Junior post-up striker Raigan Jager, a six-goal scorer as a sophomore, is a formidable presence up top where sophomore wingers Meena Shahri and Sydney Dobecki, both first-year varsity performers, have been steady contributors as well.
“Even though she hasn’t scored a goal so far, Raigan’s always an outlet and always a threat,” said Morissey. “She helps keep us stretched offensively and is very instrumental in the success of our playing style.”
Senior Ryann Cull, committed to play at Utah next year, and junior Jordan Lamoureux, whose five goals lead the Mavs in that category, have been stalwarts in the midfield. Another senior, Sloane McDonnell, racked up a hat trick in LCC’s most recent contest and freshman Riley Platenberg has the look of a future standout.
Despite the quality residing in the attacking and midfield sections, the real strength of LCC lineup may lie in its back third. “For us, defense is a full-team activity, from front to back, starting with the forwards and on through the midfield,” declared Morissey. “But, that said, I consider our back line to be the best in the league as far as overall defensive ability.”
Junior right back Caitlin Rohr and sophomore center back Annie DeHaan are both returning starters. The other center back is junior Summer Humphreys, who stepped in for DeHaan’s injured older sister Casey, and junior JV call-up Lucy Sardo operates out of the left back slot.
Anchoring the defense is senior Jenna Gerraughty whose combination of skill and experience puts her among the top goalkeepers in the section.
All of that has added up to a 7-1-1 ledger and a 3-0-1 NC Coastal mark which puts LCC in a tie with Carlsbad atop the league standings. The Mavs have a plus-10 goal differential and conceded just one goal while going undefeated over their last five outings.
Even at the high school level, teams aspiring to reach the pinnacle of their competitive divisions are rarely without at least one or two special players able to produce magic at just the right moment. For La Costa Canyon (Annie) DeHaan may be the person that fits that description.
In just her second season, (Annie) DeHaan, is already considered one of the elite prep players in the county. The lithe, 5-foot-7 speedster handles her position smartly and efficiently, expending little wasted movement while able to accelerate to top speed in a matter of steps. Her coach envisions her as a player who still has plenty of upside.
“Annie could really be a player anywhere on the field,” says Morissey, who utilizes her regularly for corner kicks. “She wants to go forward and has the ability to be a factor in that role but, right now, she’s so crucial defensively—people just don’t get by her.” That’s fine with DeHaan, who actually started her soccer career as a forward.
“Coaches said I wasn’t strong enough at forward and moved me to defense,” said the 16-year-old Carlsbad resident. “I’m comfortable at center back but my best position is probably outside back where I can get up in the attack a little more.” She feels like this year’s defensive unit is working well together.
“We try to play physical, stay connected and play as a unit. I think we’re doing just fine and the results have been comparable to what we did last season—of course, it makes all of us feel better having Jenna supporting us, knowing if we mess up, there’s someone like that we can depend on.”
DeHaan admits it has been difficult not playing alongside her sister. “Having Casey out injured as been hard,” she said. “We both enjoyed it a lot last year but it’s been nice for me to at least have her on the sidelines—she always holds me accountable.”
As far as the notion of a repeat CIF championship run, DeHaan believes last year’s accomplishments will serve this year’s side well.
“Last year was really exciting but it was also a little surprising and we were kind of like ‘wow, we did it’ when it happened,” she recalled. “This year, we have a new, younger team, but I feel like we’re more confident.
“We knew we’d be good but I think we’ve been better than expected. Every player who was on last year’s team wants to do it (CIF) again and as a team we’re working even harder, knowing that it’s definitely possible.
“We know we have to play our best but just knowing what it takes helps build our confidence.”
Sign up for the Encinitas Advocate newsletter
Top stories from Encinitas every Friday for free.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Encinitas Advocate.