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Hart soccer's surprising journey

Posted: March 9, 2014 10:51 p.m.
Updated: March 9, 2014 10:51 p.m.

Hart High's Destinney Duron, left, runs to meet her teammates after she scored the second goal for Hart against Chino Hills at Corona High School in Corona on Saturday in the CIF-Southern Section Division II title game.

CORONA — Once the tears of heartbreak were wiped away on Saturday afternoon, the Hart Indians girls soccer team began to regain some perspective.

Assistant coach Danny Mellibosky could be heard preaching to the team, “One game does not define our season.”

And that’s a message the Indians reiterated in the aftermath of Saturday’s 3-2 CIF-Southern Section Division II loss to Chino Hills.

“I’m very proud of our coaches, all the players, the season,” said senior defender Laura Sega. “We never thought we would make it this far. I don’t think of it as a loss, I think of how far we made it.”

How far they made it, in fact, was historical in and of itself.

It had been over a decade since Hart was last in the position it was in Saturday.

Hart last advanced to a CIF-SS championship in 1999, splitting the title with Woodbridge.

It finished as a runner-up in 1997, it’s only other championship appearance before Saturday.

“Some of you weren’t even born yet,” Mellisbosky said to the team.

Most impressive, though, is that the success came despite a significant lack of stability at the top of the program in recent years.

For six of the seniors, this is the third head coach they’ve played for in three seasons, in Mike Gomez, Justin Lundin and now first-year head coach Guilherme Mitrovich.

The results of Mitrovich’s leadership speak for themselves.

Hart played an aggressive style in the midfield, led by reigning All CIF-SS Division II player Sophie Cortes, was strong all season long on defense, and used skilled play up top with forwards Destinney Duron and Jenny Chavez to manufacture goals.

The Indians were always strong on set pieces, and proved resilient in every match, coming from behind to win in six of their 10 Foothill League matches.

But even with those attributes, the Indians never thought they’d have a chance to compete for a CIF-SS title.

“I never dreamed we could get this far,” Mitrovich said. “I thought we were title contenders for league, and I knew we had talented girls. They worked so hard and it was a memorable season.”

The Indians again showed their talent and resiliency on Saturday, responding with two goals in under 30 seconds from Duron to turn a 0-2 deficit into a tie game before ultimately falling in the final minutes.

“That doesn’t take away from the brilliant moments and all the joy and the hard work these girls put in all season,” Mitrovich said. “It was a very successful season.”

Those moments included Hart winning its first Foothill League title since 2007, despite the fact that hope looked lost with just four games remaining.

The Indians had tied three straight games against Valencia, Canyon and West Ranch, falling from first to third in the process.

But Hart won out, including victories over Valencia and Canyon in the final week to win the league championship outright.

“I can’t believe how far we came,” said senior midfielder Kelsey Stokes. “It exceeded our expectations by so much. We knew we had a chance at league but we never thought we would get this far. It’s such an accomplishment.”

The run began with a 1-0 first round victory over Ventura, another shutout for young, freshman goalkeeper Nicole Davis.

The success continued in the second round, this time it was a 2-1 victory over Chaparral.

Then came the game that turned the tide: a quarterfinal match with No. 1 seed Sunny Hills on the road.

When Hart won that game, 0-0 (5-4 PKs), the Indians started to believe in the dream.

“I was coming into (that game) not expecting to win,” Davis said. “They were the No. 1 seed. But once we were in the second half, I knew we could do it.”

And so the confidence continued to build.

And it kept building right through Hart’s 1-0 semifinal victory over West Torrance.

The confidence may have taken a minor hit on Saturday, but Hart knows one loss does not define a season.

A season that will forever be etched in Hart soccer history.


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