Clovis North High School’s girls soccer team is showing championship form in the 2016-17 season. The Broncos have been there before under head coach Nick Pappanduros.
In the last nine years, his teams have won two Central Section championships while making deep playoff runs in other seasons. Pappanduros has led the girls soccer program since Clovis North opened in 2007.
This year’s team — led by captains Bre Frampton, Natalie Nurcanyan and Karlee Pottorff — won the girls title at the Harold S.Young Tournament in early December in Fresno. In doing so, the Broncos beat two division champions from last season — Clovis East High School (Division I) and Madera South High School (Division II).
In addition, Clovis North tied perennial power Buchanan High School in regulation and then beat Buchanan on penalty kicks. The Broncos also defeated Sanger High School.
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“Winning the tournament gives us the confidence to move on and know that we can win league and we can win the Valley championship if we keep working at it,” Pappanduros said.
Clovis North’s early success led to a No. 1 ranking by The Fresno Bee. Pappanduros said that’s “great acknowledgment” for the team but added: “Everything is decided on the field. When we get to [the playoffs in] February, we’ll see where we are.”
Senior leadership from Frampton, Nurcanyan and Pottorff is one of the strengths of the team.
“They just stand out,” Pappanduros said. “They take charge of the team. I just have to facilitate. They hold the players accountable, which you don’t always find. Their leadership has really made the difference this year.”
Defense was a question mark going into the season, Pappanduros said. The Broncos lost three veteran seniors from last year’s team — two defenders and a goalie.
To provide defensive stability this season, Pappanduros moved Nurcanyan — who had played center halfback — to center back. Joining her in the backfield are freshman Riley Prescott and junior CJ Fisher. Senior Kimberly Liu also helps anchor the defense.
“They’ve just been phenomenal,” Pappanduros said. “I can’t say enough about the maturity of their play.”
In the goalie’s spot, sophomore Angie Petrakis is showing comfort and skill, he added: “She’s just having a good time, and that’s what you need out of a goalie.”
Another underclassman, freshman Bella Taglione, has provided an offensive spark at forward. “She creates havoc,” Pappanduros said. “She will run as hard as she can and will run through a wall for you. She goes hard to every single ball and puts other teams under pressure.”
The Broncos’ other forwards — sophomore Alexa Patton and Frampton — bring their own strengths to the field. Frampton effectively directs offensive play while Patton exhibits footwork that Pappanduros described as “dazzling.”
Clovis North begins league play in the Tri-River Athletic Conference on Jan. 6 when the Broncos take on Clovis West High School. The game is at 5 p.m. at Tice Park.
Going into league play, Clovis North will have a record of 7-2-3.
Pappanduros expects the battle for the TRAC championship to be wide open. “Everybody can beat everybody on a given day,” he said. “That’s how strong the TRAC is this year.”
Last season, the Broncos struggled to a fifth-place finish in the six-team league, their lowest finish ever.
Frampton said she and other players have used the adversity of last season to forge a stronger mental attitude. And, she added, “Our team chemistry has really been great this year. We’ve bonded a lot off and on the field.”
Nurcanyan saw a different mindset at the beginning of the season. “We came out on the first day of tryouts and our intensity was higher than it ever has been,” she said.
Pottorff said this season’s team combines talent, chemistry and a work ethic to produce victories. “I have confidence in the team,” she said.
Pappanduros inspires confidence because of his record as a coach. Before coming to Clovis North, he coached nine varsity seasons at Edison High School in Fresno.
During that time, Edison won two small school Central Section championships as well as appearing in one Division I (large school) final.
Pappanduros-led teams have continued that winning tradition at Clovis North.
In the school’s first year of varsity competition — playing with only freshmen and sophomores — the Broncos made it to the Central Section’s Division III championship game before losing in overtime.
Clovis North bounced back quickly.
In the next season — 2009-10 — the school won the Division III championship.
That championship was “quite a moment for the program and the school, in general,” Pappanduros said. “The school rallied around that team, and since then, this school has supported all sports. Clovis North has the tag of having the No. 1 fans across the TRAC and in the Valley.”
In the 2010-11 season, Clovis North played in another championship game — this time in Division II — and lost in overtime.
And again, the Broncos came back strong — winning the Central Section’s Division II championship in 2011-12.
The Broncos moved up to Division I the next season. In 2014-15, they played Buchanan for the Division I championship but lost in overtime.
Pappanduros — who teaches math at Clovis North — has devoted two decades to coaching soccer because he loves the game.
“My goal is for my players to become one as a team and enjoy the soccer experience,” he said.
Melanie Abbott, junior
Sierra Alvarez, sophomore
Sydnee Baxter, senior
Ashley Derby, sophomore
CJ Fisher, junior
Bre Frampton, senior
Morgan Groves, senior
Hannah Hall, junior
Tiffany Jones, junior
Kimberly Liu, senior
Camryn McGuire, junior
Natalie Nurcanyan, senior
Alexa Patton, sophomore
Angie Petrakis, sophomore
Karlee Pottorff, senior
Riley Prescott, freshman
Brittany Rodriguez, junior
Ellie Sandstrom, freshman
Madison Slayden, sophomore
Sydney Smith, freshman
Bella Taglione, freshman
Jordyn Vainauskas, junior