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The goal is to improve

COC’s fall sports teams are optimistic about their chances in 2009

Posted: September 14, 2009 10:02 p.m.
Updated: September 15, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Hart graduate Sarina Coutin dribbles the ball during practice on Thursday. Coutin, the Santa Clarita Valley's all-time prep goal-scoring leader, transferred to COC from Cal-State Bakersfield.

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The ultimate goal for College of the Canyons’ six athletic teams competing this fall — not including football — is a Western State Conference championship.

But goals and expectations are two different things.

Expectations are closer to reality, and the reality for many of these teams is that improvement and being competitive in 2009 would be satisfying achievements.

Of these six teams, none finished with a conference championship in 2008.

Two of the teams — men’s and women’s soccer — finished with records well below the .500 mark.

Despite all of this, there is an optimism.

The soccer teams are rebuilding.

Women’s volleyball has its sights set on the state tournament.

The men’s and women’s cross country teams have room for growth.

And women’s golf is a perennial winner.

Here’s an outlook for all six squads.

Men’s Soccer

It was a struggle for the men last season.

They went 4-16-3 overall and 1-10-3 in the WSC.

Seventh-season head coach Phil Marcellin said he can tell a difference in the 2009 squad, though.

“The biggest thing is getting guys to believe in themselves and believe in the system,” Marcellin said. “The biggest thing so far was saying, ‘Hey, let’s set some real ambitious goals.’ Hopefully that will inspire the guys to live up to them.”

The ambitious goal is to build the program back into a contender for the 2010 season.

In 2010, COC will host the state championship.

The Cougars have shown a flair for the offensive already this season.

In three of their four games, they have scored four goals. They are now 2-2.

One big impact player could be freshman midfielder Jorge Serrano, who scored twice in the team’s first three games.

Another intriguing player is Saugus graduate Larry Guizar.

The sophomore was the All-Santa Clarita Valley co-Boys Soccer Player of the Year in 2006-07 and displayed one of the strongest legs this valley has ever seen.

Marcellin has a freshman-heavy team and mentioned Canyon graduate Jessie Romero, Valencia’s Brooks Walsh and Golden Valley’s Andres Bueno and Rafael Fuentes as keys to this team.

Women’s Soccer

Marcellin had been COC’s women’s head soccer coach since 1998. But this year, he has given way for former assistant Justin Lundin.
Lundin has a similar battle to his men’s counterpart in hoping to turn the program around.

The women finished 4-19 overall and 3-11 in conference last season.

Thus far, the Cougars are 1-3.

Lundin said it’s his team’s offense that will have to carry the load in 2009.

Much of that load will fall onto the shoulders of sophomore Ashley Hill and Sarina Coutin.

Coutin, the Santa Clarita Valley’s all-time prep goal-scoring leader, played at Cal-State Bakersfield last season before transferring to COC.

“That’s always going to be our key here. We have very good soccer players in the Santa Clarita Valley. It’s just getting them out here,” Lundin said. “This year we were able to get a girl from every (local) high school on the team.”

Lundin said this year’s team will have to navigate in a strong pre-conference schedule.

Scheduling such a difficult slate was intentional, he said.

But it has proven to be very challenging thus far as COC has surrendered 13 goals in four games.

“I think if we can figure out how to keep these teams off the board, we have a good shot at doing good things this year,” Lundin said.

Women’s Volleyball

The test, said College of the Canyons women’s volleyball coach Lisa Hooper, will come this weekend.

Some of the top teams in the state will play in the San Diego Mesa Tournament, including the Cougars.

How well COC performs could be an indication as to how solid it will be this season.

COC has already had one big test, having lost in three games to two-time defending state champion Irvine Valley on Sept. 2, but Hooper said her team has shown improvement since that contest.

The Cougars have a strong offensive threat in sophomore outside hitter Jillian Anderson — a 6-foot-tall potential NCAA Division I prospect.

Add to her fellow sophomores Ashlie Arnold at setter and Brooklyn Arndt at libero and COC’s women’s volleyball has a good opportunity to make it to the state postseason for the fourth consecutive season.

“We’re a little better earlier than we were last year at this time,” Hooper said. “And we still have a fair amount of growing to do.”

Women’s Golf

This may be the most eclectic team in the Santa Clarita Valley.

One woman is in her late 30s, another two are in their late 40s and three others are fresh out of high school, according to COC women’s golf head coach Gary Peterson.

“It’s really cool because the younger girls are basically hanging out with women the same ages as their moms,” Peterson said.

The first time the women golfed together, Peterson said, there was some separation. Now they’ve become closer knit.

The Cougars will look to sophomore Jennifer Kim to be their lowest scorer this season.

“We have the potential,” Peterson said. “We have probably five of the women who can shoot in the 70s, yet they’re very tournament inexperienced.”

Men’s and Women’s Cross Country

Six runners made it to the state meet in 2008.

All are gone — either having graduated or are not running for other reasons.

“We will stress personal improvement and commitment to consistency and work ethic,” said head coach Lindie Kane.

The men will benefit from the experience of sophomore Michael McEvoy, a West Ranch graduate, and Andrew Lang, a Saugus graduate who was at Cal State San Marcos last year.

The women’s side is dominated by freshmen, including Saugus grads Danielle Schaefer and Tracy Roward, who was home-schooled.

“If they continue to work hard and continue to show improvement, we’re hoping for a top 12 in the state meet and to be top three or four in conference,” Kane said. “Our conference is pretty competitive.”


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