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Prep girls soccer: A change of Hart

After a sluggish start to the season, the Indians have turned things around

Posted: January 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Hart High senior soccer players (front row from left) McKinley Kane, Hailey Jenkins, (back row from left) Presley Lambert and Ally Perez have been integral in turning around Hart's fortunes after a slow start to the season.

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There’s always that one moment when everything starts to click.

Most championship teams can point to it — when things changed from simply “Let’s win,” to “Let’s win it all.”

For the Hart girls soccer team, that moment came in a 3-0 win over Arcadia on Dec. 13.

Three weeks and nine games into what was to that point a frustrating season under first-year head coach Justin Lundin changed on that afternoon at Hart High School.

The Indians, coming off a second place finish in the Foothill League the year before, were struggling to come together under Lundin’s new system, one that differs greatly from former head coach Mike Gomez’s.

“The girls have been there two, three years. They’re used to one thing, and now they have to adapt and do something completely different,” Lundin says. “I give them a lot of credit. They did work really hard and bought in right away, but it still takes time to get everybody on the same page.”

To say things have finally come together, though, is an understatement.

The Indians followed up their win over Arcadia with a 0-0 draw against Granada Hills in a game they dominated everywhere but the scoreboard.

Following that game, Hart reeled off nine straight wins, and are currently in the midst of a 12-game unbeaten streak.

The Indians won their own Hart Soccer Showcase, dispatching both Foothill League foes Golden Valley and Canyon along the way.

“The Hart tournament helped us a lot,” senior Hailey Jenkins says. “It boosted our confidence once we finally got that win (against Arcadia) and won our tournament. We’re connecting a lot better and playing a lot better.”

The girls are also enjoying the experience more.

“So much fun” Jenkins says. “I don’t want it to end. It’s going by way too fast.”

Under Gomez’s defensive-minded system that focused on scoring on set pieces, the Indians managed 38 goals on the season.

Through 20 games under Lundin, the team has scored 35 times and appears more confident with its ability to score in the run of play.

“It didn’t feel like we had to help each other (last year),” Ally Perez says. “And now, I feel like just to win, everybody has to help each other and we have been. We are finally now a team. We’re not 11 individual girls playing on the same team.”

That mentality has helped them open up Foothill League play with a 3-0-1 record, defeating three-time champion Saugus 2-1 last week and tying Valencia 1-1 on Friday.

Because of their hot start to league play, the Indians are finally getting noticed.

“Definitely, I think we were underestimated,” says senior midfielder Presley Lambert. “We didn’t have a great preseason, so I understand why, but people are starting to notice us. We have that target on our back.”

Earning back that reputation — Hart hasn’t won a league title since 2007 — has been a prominent theme for the Indians this season.

Entering the Saugus game, Lundin encouraged the team to go out on the field and earn the reputation the Centurions carry with them as three-time defending champions.

“Reputationwise, when people hear Saugus they think of league champion,” senior McKinley Kane says. “So we wanted to be able to beat them and have the reputation that we want.”

Fully earning that reputation, though, will mean winning league after three-straight second-place finishes.

Last season, the Indians were close after defeating Saugus 2-1 on Feb. 7, 2012.

When Saugus drew 4-4 with Valencia and 2-2 against West Ranch in its next two games, the door was open for the Indians to finish in first.

But a loss to Valencia in the second to last game of the year forced Hart to settle for second.

Surely, that was on the minds of the Indians on Friday when they traveled to Valencia High School.

Trailing 1-0 for nearly the entire second half, Hart never stopped pushing forward.

And with under 10 minutes to play, the Indians finally broke through on a beautiful chip-shot goal by Jenny Chavez to maintain Hart’s half-game lead over Valencia with six games remaining in league play.

“Our goal from day one was to get to the halfway point with a lead,” Lundin says.”

And now, after a frustrating preseason, the Indians are one game away from accomplishing that first goal and moving on to their second: a league title.

“That would be amazing,” Perez says. “We’ve been second the last three years ... We worked so hard for three years, and to finally get this, to finally achieve our goal we’ve had for the past three years, would be amazing.”

 

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