The Clovis East High School girls soccer team has pushed up Jasara Gillette’s timetable.
The eighth-year Timberwolves coach figured the program’s big breakout was due next season, when her core of third-year varsity players – Mia Castillo, Peyton Kwalwasser, Nikki Crouch and Danielle Cedillo – became seniors.
But current seniors Carissa Wight, Denissia Vega and Mandy Reyes didn’t want to miss the fun.
So seemingly out of nowhere, Clovis East (15-0-2, 7-0-0) has emerged as the Central Section’s only officially undefeated team and stands on the cusp of winning the Tri-River Athletic Conference title and the top seed in the Division I playoffs that likely will come with it.
I didn’t expect it would all mesh together so quickly. But that’s a testament to the returners and the seniors that are here and my captains. Right off the bat, the expectation was to believe.
Clovis East girls soccer coach Jasara Gillette on her team’s success
“I didn’t expect it would all mesh together so quickly,” Gillette said. “But that’s a testament to the returners and the seniors that are here and my captains. Right off the bat, the expectation was to believe.”
The Timberwolves need only a win or tie when they host Clovis North at 3 p.m. Tuesday to clinch at least a share of the second TRAC championship in the program’s 16 seasons. Clovis East’s only league title came in 2004, when it shared the crown with Clovis, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
Clovis East has had one winning record and one playoff victory over the past nine seasons.
“It’s been a struggle for the past few years to compete with these teams,” Kwalwasser said. “(Winning) feels good. It surprises a lot of people, but you know we do the work at practice. We put hard work in and we know we can win. We believe in ourselves. I think that’s a big part of it, just working hard and doing the things we know how to do.”
With Kwalwasser and Crouch scoring two goals apiece and Castillo adding one, Clovis East got off to a blazing start this season with an 8-0 win over Sierra.
The Timberwolves then beat Stockdale (4-1), Madera (2-0) and Central (2-0) at the Harold S. Young tournament, where they officially tied Madera South 1-1 in the final, but lost the title on penalty kicks.
Clovis East carried that momentum into the Garces Holiday Soccer Festival, where it captured the Premier A division for the first time with a penalty-kicks victory over Clovis West after tying 1-1 through regulation.
The Timberwolves are riding an eight-game winning streak into their final three games of the regular season.
8 Consecutive wins for the Clovis East girls soccer team
“Being a part of this team the past two years and seeing how much we’ve struggled to stay in games and get a win or tie, it’s amazing to be a part of something this huge at Clovis East,” Castillo said. “For the first time, (we’re) winning games and know that our school is behind us and that we have a great coach behind us encouraging us all the way.”
Gillette said Clovis East actually began to turn the corner late last season, when it played four double-overtime games in TRAC play, including one against eventual section champion Buchanan. The Timberwolves went on to score their first playoff win (4-1 at Garces) before losing 2-1 to eventual D-I runner-up Clovis North in the quarterfinals.
“We just didn’t how to win yet,” Gillette said. “But with that experience and that growth, now they understand we’re in this. They truly believe.”
The Timberwolves are trying to follow in the footsteps of the school’s girls volleyball team, which won its first section Division I title in November. The girls soccer team never has won a section championship.
“I just want it so bad for them,” Gillette said. “You want the girls to feel success. And the fact that they do, and they can smile and walk proud around campus and have that feeling for them, I think is going to be something they take with them throughout college and life – that feeling of what it’s like to build something and be a part of this team and history this year.”
Record breaker – Redwood junior forward Brooke Crisp scored her 32nd and 33rd goals of the season Jan. 28 during the Rangers’ 3-1 West Yosemite League victory over Lemoore to set the school’s season scoring record.
Crisp increased her season total to 33 goals with at least four games to play, breaking the record of 31 set by Maddy Messier last season. Messier now plays for Fresno City College.
The ninth-ranked Rangers resume WYL play Wednesday at El Diamante needing a win or tie to clinch their fifth straight league title.
Central Section soccer rankings
Records through Jan. 30
BOYS TOP 15
- 1. Buchanan 12-1-6
- 2. Edison 14-2-1
- 3. South 19-2-4
- 4. Central 12-6-2
- 5. Bullard 10-3-5
- 6. Clovis 12-5-1
- 7. McLane 17-5-0
- 8. Golden West 9-4-2
- 9. Liberty-Bakersfield 14-3-22
- 10. Reedley 12-6-3
- 11. Roosevelt 8-5-1
- 12. Ridgeview15-3-1
- 13. Golden Valley 9-4-2
- 14. Clovis North 6-7-4
- 15. Centennial 10-6-2
- D-I: 1. Buchanan; 2. Central; 3. Bullard
- D-II: 1. Edison; 2. South; 3. Golden West
- D-III: 1. Roosevelt; 2. Ridgeview; 3. Independence 11-6-3
- D-IV: 1. McLane; 2. Kerman 10-7-2; 3. Lindsay 10-4-2
- D-V: 1. McFarland 14-3-3; 2. Riverdale 11-1-1; 3. Kennedy 7-4-1
- D-VI: 1. Avenal 9-5-1; 2. Mendota 11-6-2; 3. Exeter 7-9-2
GIRLS TOP 15
- 1. Clovis East 15-0-2
- 2. Madera South 17-2-2
- 3. Clovis 13-4-2
- 4. Clovis West 12-6-7
- 5. Liberty-Bakersfield 10-3-8
- 6. Clovis North 7-6-5
- 7. Bullard 11-5-0
- 8. Buchanan 7-8-2
- 9. Redwood 16-3-3
- 10. Frontier 11-5-3
- 11. Central 9-8-4
- 12. Madera 8-7-3
- 13. Hoover 13-2-4
- 14. Liberty-Madera Ranchos 12-4-2
- 15. Highland 11-6-1
- D-I: 1. Clovis East; 2. Clovis; 3. Clovis West
- D-II: 1. Madera South; 2. Redwood; 3. Madera
- D-III: 1. Hoover; 2. Liberty-Madera Ranchos; 3. East Bakersfield 15-4-3
- D-IV: 1. Strathmore 16-3-0; 2. Bakersfield Christian 15-5-0; 3. Foothill 14-1-2
- D-V: 1. Fowler 16-3-1; 2. McFarland 14-6-1; 3. Woodlake 12-7-2
- D-VI: 1. Mendota 8-3-3; 2. Frazier Mountain 8-3-0; 3. Minarets 6-6-3