Santa Clarita has a thriving sports scene that spans across a variety of athletics. The Foothill League is comprised of the six Hart District schools, each program having the potential to dominate any sport at any time. This is what makes playing in Foothill so grueling.
It’s also what makes the success of Hart’s girls’ soccer team so remarkable. Taylor Moorehead clinched a 2-1 victory against Canyon on February 2, scoring the winning goal in the 55th minute. The win brought the Indians to a perfect 8-0 league record, and more importantly, gave Hart its fifth consecutive Foothill title.
Pinning down what allows the Indians such success in high school sports, where rosters are constantly changing, is a difficult task. Head coach Guilherme Mitrovitch, who has led the program for all five league titles, shares what he believes makes his team so consistent.
“I believe it is a combination of factors,” Mitrovitch said. “The number of quality players within the program, a prepared coaching staff that works together towards the same goals, support from parents and school staff and last, but not least, making sure the student athletes believe in what we are doing.”
Winning is made easier when a team’s defense is clicking. Hart personifies this ideology, playing suffocating defense that is almost impossible to score on. In fact, it wasn’t until their seventh Foothill game against Valencia that the Indians allowed a goal in league play. For the regular season, Hart was scored on just two times in 10 Foothill games.
“First of all, they have to work well together,” Mitrovitch said. “We stress movement, covering, communication, reading the game, and defending as a unit. In addition to that, they have to take pride in shutting out opponents.”
What makes Hart so dangerous is that their stout defense is balanced with an efficient offense. In league play, the team scored 26 total goals, averaging out to just under three goals per game. This includes games of seven and five goals, both against Golden Valley, and a four-goal shutout of West Ranch in the Indians’ second matchup with the Wildcats.
“We like to have an offense that doesn’t operate only one way, which is not always easy to accomplish,” Mitrovitch shared. “Due to the depth of our squad this season, a lot of players end up getting involved in the offense.”
Despite showing few weaknesses throughout the season, Hart’s bid for a perfect Foothill season came just short, as Saugus was able to force a 0-0 draw in their final league game against the Indians.
Hart defeated Saugus 1-0 in the two teams’ first matchup, but Centurions’ goalie Kayla Medof allowed that lone score on eight shot attempts by the Indians, good for a 90 percent save rate. In the second game, Medof stopped all nine shots the Indians placed on goal, helping to preserve the tie, and spoil Hart’s perfect Foothill record.
The season didn’t end exactly how coach Mitrovitch would’ve preferred, but the conclusion of Foothill play isn’t being factored into the team’s preparation for the playoffs.
“We surely wanted to finish 10-0 (in Foothill League), but I don’t think it gives us extra motivation,” Mitrovitch said. “The girls are prepared and looking forward to playoffs just the same.
There is little time to dwell in the past, as the Indians are set to host the Westlake Warriors in the first round of the CIF Southern Section (SS) Division 1 Girls Soccer playoffs. This is the first time the two programs are scheduled to meet, and although the Warriors have an overall record of 6-3-7, it would be unwise to take any postseason opponent lightly. Westlake played Thousand Oaks, the Marmonte League runner-ups, to two ties during the season, showing they can hang with tougher opponents.
If Hart wants to make a deep postseason push akin to last season, which ended with a trip to the CIF SS Division 1 semifinals and a berth in the CIF SS Regional Girls Soccer Championship, it will take more than just perfect preparation. The team will need to deepen their connection, something Mitrovitch believes they are capable of.
“I believe it is going to take a huge amount of team work and consistency to make another run like that,” Mitrovitch said. “However, we showed we can compete with those big schools in last year’s Division 1 playoffs. We want to make sure we represent Foothill League and the SCV well.”
Regardless of where Hart finishes in the postseason, the success they have displayed this season, and in years past, is something that should be celebrated. Mitrovitch acknowledges and takes pride in these accomplishments, but like any championship level coach, is hungry for more. It’s a trait the team takes after as well.
“I’m very proud of what we have accomplished this season so far, and I’m very happy for my seniors,” Mitrovitch said. “But, we are not happy to just be in the playoffs. We want more.”