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Rivals turned friends for COC soccer

Allie Leon, Stacey Atwater and K.T. Koury all used to play on separate Foothill League teams

Posted: October 2, 2013 9:29 p.m.
Updated: October 2, 2013 9:29 p.m.

Hart graduate Allie Leon, left, Saugus graduate Stacey Atwater, center, and West Ranch graduate K.T. Koury, right, were the only returning starters from COC's 2012 conference championship squad.

 

One wasn’t sure she wanted to continue her soccer career after graduating from Hart.

Another came on late in her time at Saugus, but was derailed by an injury her senior year.

The third was one of the league’s top keepers during her time at West Ranch, but the shear depth of the Foothill League worked to overshadow her.

All three never imagined they’d end up together at College of the Canyons.

Yet, all three are — representing different Foothill League schools — and they couldn’t be happier about the decision.

Allie Leon now expects to continue her soccer career at a four-year university after nearly giving up on the game after graduating from Hart.

Stacey Atwater was one of the league’s top scorers during her senior year at Saugus, but a broken collarbone in the second game of league play forced her out until the playoffs.

K.T. Koury led West Ranch to its first playoff appearance in school history as a rock in net for the Wildcats, and is now getting the recognition she missed out on in high school.

The three make up the core of a College of the Canyons team looking to win its third straight Western State Conference, South title after a strong 18-1-4 finish last season.

The three former rivals are the only players on the 2013 roster who logged significant minutes in 2012. Now, the women have bonded as teammates.

“It’s kind of cool,” Atwater says. “At first we were all rivals. I’m trying to score on K.T., and I’m trying to get passed Allie. And now we’re a team and working together.”

They all bring a distinct style, too, brought about, in part, by the rival instruction each received at different local high schools.

“Typically, there’s some type of stereotype as to the kind of player you’re going to get as far as what school they go to,” says COC head coach Justin Lundin.

Atwater, for example, is known as an attacking forward always looking to make a run on goal.

“Definitely, we all brought something different from all the different schools,” Koury says. “Stacey was a great forward and I’m sure (Saugus head coach Natalie Helgeson) had a big part in that.”

Hart, on the other hand, brings a calmer, more possession style play to the field — and Leon fits the mold.

“Allie is really good with foot skills and knowing where the ball is at all time,” Atwater says. “It’s cool to have a group of girls from different areas and schools with different learning techniques.”

Oddly enough, it’s those varying styles that have helped the Cougars jump out to a strong start to the 2013 season.

The Cougars are 5-1-2 on the year, and are coming off a 1-0 victory over Santa Barbara — Koury’s fourth shutout of the season.

“It brings diversity into the playing so everyone is not the same,” Koury says. “We’re not all trying to do the same things — it all brings it together.”

The local fusion is certainly no accident.

College of the Canyons head coach Justin Lundin — who himself coached in the league last season when he spent one year as the Hart head coach — has made a habit of recruiting the Foothill League over his four years at COC.

“The Foothill League, especially on the women’s side, is just an outstanding league producing great players in Santa Clarita,” Lundin says.

And for the girls who grew up playing against one another, joining forces has been a rewarding experience.

“It’s a lot of fun because we know how each other play and we just got a long well with each other,” Leon says. “Even though we knew we were from different schools, we wanted to play together and win conference together (last season) and we did everything we could to play as a team.”

Duplicating that feat, though, is going to take more than just the trio.

As the only returners, they’ve all welcomed a new crop of players with open arms — a group that includes an additional seven Foothill League players.

Oddly enough, according to Leon, Koury and Atwater, the benefits of attending COC aren’t widely known to girls growing up in the area.

“I honestly wasn’t (aware of the benefits of COC). I never went to their games, I never really heard about anything,” Atwater says. “I was kind of clueless of it all.”

All three agreed that Atwater’s sentiment is typical, though Koury was an exception, as she played club soccer for Lundin and attended COC games during high school.

Nonetheless, the trio hopes more girls become aware of the opportunities COC affords, especially for girls who aren’t sure what their next step is.

“All three will move on. All three have already been talking to schools and have coaches contacting me asking about them,” Lundin says. “All three, as long as they want to continue, all three will be playing on a scholarship next year — I’m almost positive.”

They arrived at College of the Canyons an Indian, Centurion and Wildcat. After this season, they’ll leave together as Cougars.

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