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Top-ranked Corona Santiago balances shenanigans and execution


The Thursday evening torrent does little, sadly, to clean away the scent of urine.

There are rats inside Corona Santiago High’s press field, in accordance with women’ soccer coach Mike Fleming. Thus, Fleming attests, the room smells of urine. It’s nonetheless a refuge, although, from the onslaught of rain that kilos Santiago’s turf this early-January evening, gamers on the sphere squinting.

The rubber monitor across the area fills with puddles. The Santiago women’ soccer gamers, bundled in jackets, gleefully and punt a waterlogged ball via the water earlier than a sport towards Corona Centennial.

They assemble on the sphere, Sharks gamers beginning to carry out the Griddy Dance amid the downpour as Kanye West’s “Power” thumps over soaked loudspeakers. Fleming carries a big umbrella, and gamers on the sidelines crack up as he jogs over from a pregame assembly with officers.

“It’s like a beach umbrella,” one participant stated whereas laughing.

At first look, nothing is taken too significantly. Santiago is simply one other public highschool soccer staff in an period of membership dominance. The gamers mosh-pit of their locker room earlier than each sport to “Shots” by LMFAO. Their assistant coach tells them, “May the Force be with you.” And their press field smells of urine.

“We’re not walking around like, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re the best in the nation,’” sophomore ahead Madelyn Saruwatari stated.

Yet they may.

The rain slows and shenanigans finish at kickoff, changed by an unrelenting possession-based assault and dogged pursuit of the ball. This is a gaggle of neighborhood children, Fleming says proudly, enjoying in a system that’s turn out to be the most effective in Southern California. Through this winter season, the Sharks are 14-0-1 and ranked as the most effective staff within the nation by the United Soccer Coaches.

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“It’s probably the least talented team I’ve seen in eight years watching them … and yet, they still are able to stay on top,” Centennial coach Jason Smith stated. “That’s pretty remarkable, when you think about it.”

Every season, Fleming instills a phrase because the staff’s motto. In 2019-20, when Santiago received its first Southern Section Division I title, it was “trust” — this system switching philosophies from a direct assault to ball management. This season, it’s “execute.”

He doesn’t let the staff neglect it, the women laughing at how typically Fleming repeats the phrase.

“He just always reminds us, like …” Saruwatari says, earlier than being interrupted by senior Kaitlyn Currier, who has dedicated to Cal State East Bay.

“We’re going to execute ourselves if we don’t execute!” Currier shouts in a gruff-voiced impression of Fleming, teammates cracking up.

Much like the women, Fleming doesn’t take himself too significantly. The 23-year head coach has been blessed by expertise, he stated, with six faculty commits on final season’s staff and 11 the season earlier than. He’s an enormous believer in “keep it simple, stupid,” he says with a smile.

“The older I get,” Fleming says with a smile, “the easier it is.”

Laugh as they may at Fleming’s emphasis, the Sharks execute with excessive endurance, their offense like a slow-moving tide. Advance, then pull again, till a gap is discovered and a participant crests via.

“We’ll get them out of shape and then just turn, quickly stab at them,” Saruwatari stated.

They dominated possession towards Centennial in a 3-0 win earlier this month. Quick-footed junior midfielder Krystal Medina, Saruwatari and Currier every scored.

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Santiago’s system doesn’t change, Smith stated. The problem is to remain constant while you’re undefeated, as a result of, as Fleming is aware of — heading into the 2019-20 playoffs unranked earlier than knocking off beforehand unbeaten Upland — nothing is assured.

“We just can’t let it get to us,” Currier stated.

There are different packages within the Southern Section are in pursuit, together with Santa Margarita and Temecula Valley.

Santa Margarita is led by first-year head coach Craig Bull. The Eagles are 11-0-2 and can face a tricky Trinity League schedule down the stretch of the season. Junior ahead Faith George, who has dedicated to USC and likewise runs monitor, is somebody to look at because the staff’s prime scorer.

Temecula Valley is the reigning Division I state champion and the Golden Bears (13-3-2) are again for one more run. Last season’s Southern Section Division 1 participant of the 12 months, Natalie Mitchell, is now at Virginia Tech, however the Golden Bears nonetheless have a slew of expertise with senior Cal State Long Beach commit Zoe Willis and Air Force commit Annika Jost.

Orange County is as sturdy as ever with JSerra (9-1-3) and Villa Park (9-3-2) fielding typically sturdy groups. San Clemente (10-1-4) and Huntington Beach (16-2-1) are additionally potential contenders.


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