Both high school boys soccer teams on the peninsula are in the midst of rebuilding their teams. Here's our preview of this year's teams:
Palos Verdes soccer
What a difference a year makes for the Palos Verdes boys soccer team.
Ninth-year coach Derek Larkins saw a team last year start the season off as an inexperienced group, only to round into form at the end of the season.
"We were young, and the inexperience showed early in the season," Larkins said. "At the end of the season, things started clicking into place and we were playing our best soccer."
This year, Larkins sees a better version of the team that finished off the 2018-19 season.
"We would be in games last year, but then make a bad play or two and that would be the game," Larkins said. "We also relied too much on a couple guys offensively."
Larkins is relying on a group of eight seniors to help lead the team back to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. Those seniors are Dylan Bartlett, AJ Meade-Tatum, Ryan Hynes, Sean Agahee, Tomoi Stapleton, AJ Arriola, Koa Vetterlein and Cade Coward.
"We expect to break teams down more," Larkins said. "A lot of our guys are a year stronger, having the additional time in the weight room to help them not break down during the season."
Currently 4-0-2, PV has passed the test of its gauntlet of a schedule thorough the seasons first two weeks, reeling off victories against Long Beach Cabrillo, El Segundo, LB Wilson and Ridgeview-Bakersfield.
But PV isn't out of the woods yet. The Sea Kings square off against division 1 power San Clemente Jan. 3 before a showdown with West Torrance Jan. 4.
"We're going to find out what the playoffs look like—knock on wood," Larkins said.
Following a third place finish in the Bay League, Larkins feels PV can utilize its deep bench to compete for its first league crown since 2016.
"We have a deep bench, so we should be able to run with anyone," Larkins said. "The most important thing for us is to eliminate distractions, remember the history of our program and for each kid to remember that he is playing for something bigger than himself."
Like its rivals across the Hill, the Peninsula boys soccer team saw an influx of youth during the 2018-19 season.
The Panthers started six sophomores and one freshman, and the Panthers experienced something they've only seen once in coach Patrick Daley's tenure: missing the CIF-SS playoffs.
"It was extremely humbling not making the playoffs for the first time in five years," Daley said. "This season, our main focus and goal is to get back into the dance."
Peninsula features what Daley calls a small core of seniors up the middle - forwards Aidan Hay and Ricky McLewee, midfielder Eugene Kim and defensive anchor Manny Li.
Daley knows anything is possible with this year's squad, and Peninsula began the season with a 5-1 victory over San Pedro Dec. 3.
"On paper, we should be competitive with any team we come across, as long as we stay focused and play our style," Daley said.
Currently 7-0-1, Peninsula will face Lynwood Thursday as part of the annual South Torrance Holiday Classic--one tournament Daley is looking to use as a tune-up for Bay League play.
"I expect to see determined players who are hungry to get into the playoffs after missing last year," Daley said.
With all intentions on putting last year's fifth place Bay League finish in its rear-view mirror, Peninsula opens its league schedule Jan. 7 at Mira Costa.
And Daley feels the Panthers know just what is expected of them in order to compete for a league title. Peninsula last won a league title game in 2017-18.
"The guys need to stay healthy, hold themselves accountable and keep good communication on and off the field," Daley said.
Peninsula will travel to Palos Verdes for the first of two rivalry meetings Jan. 21. The teams will close out the regular season Feb. 5 at Peninsula.