Anna DeLeon, Palos Verdes soccer

Palos Verdes senior Anna DeLeon looks to move the ball upfield in a game earlier this season. DeLeon is one of 17 seniors hoping to lead the Sea Kong’s back to a Bay League title. (Photo by Edward Mcclure)

If its group of 17 seniors has its say, the Palos Verdes girls soccer team is looking to regain its spot at the top of the Bay League.

Having last won a title following the 2016-17 season, PV battled inexperience last season with just four seniors.

Now, last years group has gained the necessary experience, and 13th year coach Sean Lockhart is looking forward to seeing what this squad can put together.

"Last year was very encouraging. We had a lot of new players to varsity and only four seniors, so we're looking to add the experience we gathered last year as a whole with a large returning group," Lockhart said.

PV is led by seniors Syssa Padron, Anna DeLeon and Bri Bugle. Padron has already committed to UC Davis, while DeLeon has given her commitment to the University of Florida, and Bugle to CSU Fullerton.

"So far, we look a little more polished and confident in what we are doing as a collective, and we are expecting to mount a strong challenge to regain the Bay League," Lockhart said.

Carrying a roster of 31, Lockhart has begun leaning on the other 14 non-seniors on the Sea Kings roster, including junior Peyton Eberhard and sophomores Grace Hsieh and Stella McKay.

"(Eberhard) is already providing a spark in the offensive third, and (Hsieh) will impact the game in the midfield," Lockhart said. "(McKay) is a player who will be a big part of the program for the next few years."

The start of the season wasn't exactly one Lockhart was thrilled about: nine Sea Kings were missing due to US Soccer Development Academy commitments.

"Assessing where we are with the system through these two weeks and then blending the returners back from club will be key periods for the group as a whole," Lockhart said.

Looking to prepare for its league schedule, PV competed in both the Mater Dei Tournament and the South Torrance Holiday Classic, giving the Sea Kings a chance to face top-tier competition.

"These were some particularly tough games. The Mater Dei tournament is never an easy game," Lockhart said.

As of Monday, Dec. 30, PV sits at 5-7-1 overall, and Lockhart has seen the Sea Kings battle throughout its nonleague slate. PV has split two matches with North Torrance and Culver City, while going 0-1-1 against West Torrance.

PV will begin league play Jan. 7 against Centennial before visiting Mira Costa Jan. 10 and defending league champion Redondo Jan. 10.

"If we want to compete for a league title, it will come down to how well we implement the shape and system and get on the same page as a group," Lockhart said. "With a large squad, it will be important that the vibe of the team is positive and the group is in it together all the way through."

Peninsula will host the first of two meetings, Jan. 21. PV will host the regular season finale Feb. 5. 
 
Peninsula soccer preview

Scotte Massey knows what needs to happen for the Peninsula girls soccer team to be competitive in a stacked Bay League.

"We are going to have to mature quickly," the 16th year coach said. "We are asking our freshman and sophomores to play like juniors and seniors. At the same time, we're asking our juniors and seniors to carry the burden of molding these young players into a formidable team, keeping them focused and serving as role models."

The Panthers will look to their captains, seniors Kamea Vierra-Lambert and Kelly Beaupre and junior Michelle Jeong to help bring Peninsula's freshman along.

Those freshman, Priscilla Men-Martin, Erin Munz, Grace Monroy and Aishling Callanan, have already shown Massey what they're capable of.

"(Men-Martin) is a great ball-handler with an impressive work ethic, and (Munz) is agile, dangerous and quickly adapting to the varsity level," Massey said. "(Monroy) is a fierce competitor, and she's determine to make an impact as a forward, and Callanan has the ability to get in behind the defense."

Before its Bay League season began, Massey knew the Panthers would need to find a chemistry, and he scheduled the girls to compete in the Newport Harbor Tournament to open December, playing against top Orange County teams such as Corona Del Mar, Montgomery and Viewpoint.

"They're all excellent, experienced teams, and our players need to be exposed to high-level play so they could get a first-hand look at what it takes to survive in the Bay League," Massey said.

Also on Peninsula's nonleague schedule were Torrance and West Torrance, with Massey looking to these games to prepare the Panthers for its Jan. 7 league opener against Mira Costa.

"Our goal in nonleague is always the same. We want to develop a strong team bond and consistently improve our game, one part at a time," Massey said. "We do not bring much experience to the table, so we have to make up for that with a cohesiveness and a shared vision of what success looks like."

That cohesiveness is what Massey sees as a key to the teams success. Currently 2-3-2 as of Monday, Dec. 30, the Panthers must buy into the team goal in order to compete.

"If there's an x-factor to our success, it will have to be in our strength as team who believe in each other and want to play well for our teammates, who play unselfish and are committed to the team concept," Massey said. "We'll look for our chemistry to carry us through the tougher times in our schedule."

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