After a season that exceeded all expectations for the Sierra Pacific girls soccer team, they had a bit of success one last time when the East Sequoia League All-League teams were unveiled earlier this week.
The Golden Bears, who won their first-ever East Sequoia League championship and finished as runner-up in the CIF Central Section Division V championship, had nine girls honored.
Sierra Pacific defender Ashlyn Martinez was named defensive player of the year and third-year head coach Christa Smith was named Coach of the Year — two of the biggest honors.
“It was a unanimous [decision] throughout the whole league who should be getting defensive player,” Smith said. “That was quite impressive. Ashlyn was one of the only names brought forward and nominated … so her hard work is definitely going recognized.”
Martinez, a senior, helped lead the team to a 15-7-5 overall record and 7-1-2 record in the ESL. She was huge part of the defense, which recorded 10 shutout victories and Martinez dominated on the field for the Golden Bears. Smith said coaches told her that Martinez controls the game and she’s the obstacle they were trying to get through when designing their game plan.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little surprised because there’s a lot of good defenders,” Martinez said. “It was a good way to end my senior year.”
Martinez might be small, but she played like the biggest player on the field every time. She knew when to give help on a possession, when to direct traffic and was always marking her man. Anybody who watched her play understands why this was a well-deserved award for her.
“It means a lot to me. It shows me that I’m better than what I believe I am,” Martinez said. “It’s like the A-grade to all my hard work. It’s pretty much like the cherry on top.”
Smith reflected how just a couple years ago Sierra Pacific wasn’t even able to field a junior varsity squad because of lack of players, so they struggled with depth and getting players ready to play at the varsity level.
“Thinking about going from not even having the numbers for a JV to coming in and winning a league championship, it is a team effort,” Smith said. “I’ve had a really great group of assistant coaches, and I think that just mean that we’re building relationships with kids and they want to be a part of something bigger.”
Smith was sure to mention her first-year assistant coach Jose Chica for all the work he put in throughout the season. She added that they worked well together and preferred to call the award the “coaching staff” of the year.
Sierra Pacific also had eight girls make the first and second team with four on each one. For first team, it was Sadie Ronquillo, Macy Lemos, Emma Martella and Kayla Sizemore. On second team it was Kaitlin Thayer, Amie Walker, Bryn Frauenheim and Olivia Fagundes.
Ronquillo’s speed on the outside killed defenders and she could finish once inside the box. Lemos just about scored any time she was given space — especially from the 18-yard mark — and was a corner kicking machine. Martella knew how to absorb contact, find the box and get her shot off every time. Sizemore crossed a mean ball and knew how to stay ready to score and Fagundes was exceptional with finding goals in the box and her headers were always on point.
Thayer, Walker and Frauenheim were part of the backline with Martinez and were exceptional when it came to defense. Thayer was an issue for any forward on the field with her length and ability to stop defenders in their tracks. Her throw-ins were also a thing of beauty to watch.
Frauenheim was so exceedingly smooth when attacking a pass or sending a through ball and Walker, a freshman on defense, was composed at all times and made smart decisions with the ball.
Of the eight girls, six of them are either freshmen or sophomores, which means Sierra Pacific will have the majority of their team intact for next year.
“It’s a bright future, but not just because they’re so young,” Smith said. “It’s because they now have the taste of what it feels like to be on top and they are hungry to do it again next year for sure.”