Peyton Kwalwasser recognized the opportunity in front of the Clovis East High girls soccer team following a runner-up finish at the season-opening Harold S. Young Tournament.
If the Timberwolves could reach the final of the challenging tournament that featured most of the Central Section’s top teams, including reigning Division I champion Buchanan and Division II champ Madera South, why couldn’t they compete for the Tri-River Athletic Conference title?
Or, perhaps the Timberwolves – who had only two playoff victories in school history entering the season – had a shot at their first section Division I crown?
“We realized we had a chance to be Valley champions – and we were not going to let that pass us by,” Kwalwasser said. “We were going to fight until the very end to make that happen.
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“Every game, we got more motivated to not let down and step up our game. We knew every game was going to be a challenge. But every game, we were more determined to make it happen.”
We realized we had a chance to be Valley champions – and we were not going to let that pass us by.
Clovis East junior Peyton Kwalwasser, who helped lead the Timberwolves to the school’s first Central Section Division I girls soccer title
The Harold S. Young run – which consisted of a 4-1 victory over perennial Bakersfield power Stockdale, a 2-0 win over defending County/Metro Athletic Conference champ Madera, a 2-0 win over reigning D-I semifinalist Central and an official 0-0 tie against Madera South in the final that was decided on penalty kicks – cemented a belief in Kwalwasser that this was Clovis East’s year.
So the junior tri-captain provided 15 goals, 13 assists and, when asked, stifling defense as the Timberwolves went 20-1-3, won the school’s second TRAC title and the first section Division I title in the 16-year history of the program, and advanced to the CIF Southern California Regional for the first time as the No. 1 seed in D-I.
Kwalwasser is The Bee’s Player of the Year.
“I’ve had some really amazing players come through Clovis East, but I don’t know if they had the belief like Peyton did,” said Jasara Gillette, the Timberwolves’ eighth-year coach. “When you have someone like Peyton who is a leader and has that belief, it’s contagious. She makes other players on the team believe and step up to that level.”
Kwalwasser entered the season as an emerging offensive force after scoring 10 goals and making 10 assists as a sophomore.
But as injuries to Denissia Vega, Mandy Reyes and Camille teNyenhuis began to weaken the Timberwolves’ defense, Gillette turned to Kwalwasser to stabilize the backline.
When you have someone like Peyton who is a leader and has that belief, it’s contagious. She makes other players on the team believe and step up to that level.
Clovis East girls soccer coach Jasara Gillette, on star junior Peyton Kwalwasser, who is The Bee’s Player of the Year.
And Gillette did so on the fly early in the first half of Clovis East’s second TRAC meeting against Buchanan, which had won nine of the past 10 section titles. The Timberwolves would beat the Bears 1-0, part of a 9-0-1 march through the TRAC, whose coaches selected Kwalwasser the conference’s Player of the Year.
“They couldn’t get by her. That was really a breakout game for her,” Gillette said. “For her to play a phenomenal game (on defense) without coaching really shows how versatile she is and her talent level.”
For Kwalwasser, it was all about doing her part to help the team capture those elusive titles.
“Soccer is such a team sport. You just do what you need to do when they need you to do it,” Kwalwasser said. “I don’t care if I play defense – I just want the team to win. I wanted to contribute as much as I could to winning.
“I played aggressive no matter where I was. I was trying to make a difference, and that translates to any position.”
Top-seeded Clovis East needed Kwalwasser’s aggressiveness and her offensive prowess in the Division I final against No. 3 Clovis.
Heading into overtime, Gillette implored Kwalwasser to be a game-changer. And one minute into the second 10-minute overtime period, Kwalwasser was just that, firing a 25-yard laser from the left flank that hooked inside the right post and lifted the Timberwolves over the Cougars 3-2.
“To be such a part of history for our school and make everyone at our school so proud, it was amazing,” said Kwalwasser, who has orally committed to Fresno Pacific. “I never thought we could do it before.
“Everyone on the team deserves to be proud. It really was a great accomplishment. We proved we could do it. We worked hard.”
Outstanding Offensive Performer: Raina Wristen
- School: Liberty-Madera Ranchos
- Grade: Junior
- Position: Forward
- She’s qualified because: Emerged as one of the Central Section’s leading point producers in her third varsity season for the Hawks. Wristen contributed 27 goals and 18 assists to a Liberty team that went 10-0 through the North Sequoia League, won a second straight section Division III title, advanced to the CIF Southern California Regional and finished 20-5-2. Wristen’s 72 points were eighth-best in the section among statistics on Maxpreps.com. Wristen, the NSL’s MVP, scored a goal with a defender holding her arm behind her back and made the assist on Martha Ochoa’s winning goal as the Hawks beat East Bakersfield 2-1 in the section final. Wristen has produced 55 goals and 39 assists in her career for teams that have gone a combined 55-18-7 and reached three straight D-III finals.
- Confidence booster: After being sidelined for most of two months with a knee injury, Wristen scored 10 seconds into her first game back to alleviate any concerns she or the Hawks’ coaches had about her readiness for the season. She sprinted down the field from the opening whistle, received a through-ball, beat a defender and scored the first goal of an eventual hat trick in Liberty’s season-opening 6-1 victory over Hanford West. “That was huge for her after not being able to do anything for two months,” Liberty coach Erick Walker said. “It was like, ‘Oh, welcome back, Raina.’ ”
- He said it: “She’s such a huge threat offensively and defensively. She really stepped up for us this year. She’s a true leader on the field by her performance and her attitude.” – Liberty coach Erick Walker
Outstanding Defensive Performer: Alyssa Ramos
- School: Central
- Grade: Senior
- Position: Goalkeeper
- She’s qualified because: Ramos was the nation’s 12th-leading shot blocker, according to Maxpreps.com, finishing with a school season record 238 saves, 70 more than any other goalkeeper in the Central Section. She averaged 9.9 saves per game for the section Division I quarterfinalist Grizzlies, who went 10-10-6. The Tri-River Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year had a 1.1 goals-against average, allowing 25 in 24 games over 1,790 minutes. She posted 12 shutouts. Ramos, who sports a 4.02 grade-point average, signed with NCAA Division II Dominican.
- What a career: Took over as the full-time starter a month into her freshman season and went on to record a school career-record 551 saves. She had a 0.8 goals-against average for her career while allowing 64 in 6,685 minutes. “Even from her freshman year, she’s been an absolute leader in the back,” Central coach Brandon Kwock said. “We’ve had some good defenders, but it takes someone to organize them, and Alyssa has always taken on that responsibility and done it well.” Ramos averaged 5.5 saves per game and finished with 46 career shutouts for teams that went a combined 72-24-12 while reaching three section semifinals.
- He said it: “We had so many issues this year scoring goals, but Alyssa kept us in basically every game. She held us together. She allowed us to do some things I didn’t expect us to do.” – Central coach Brandon Kwock
Coach of the Year: Jasara Gillette
- School: Clovis East
- She’s qualified because: Gillette directed the most successful season in the 16-year history of the Clovis East girls soccer program. The Timberwolves finished as the runner-up at the Harold S. Young Tournament, won the Girls Premier A Division of the Garces Holiday Soccer Festival, went 9-0-1 while winning the Tri-River Athletic Conference title, beat Clovis 3-2 in overtime for the school’s first Central Section Division I girls soccer championship and advanced to the CIF Southern California Regional for the first time as the top seed in Division I. The Timberwolves were ranked as high as No. 8 in the Topdrawersoccer.com national Fab 50 before dropping out of the rankings following a season-ending 5-3 loss to Taft-Woodland Hills in the SoCal Regional. Gillette was named TRAC’s Coach of the Year.
- Getting over the hump: Gillette had one winning record – 10-9-2 in 2012-13 – during her first seven seasons at Clovis East. But she felt the program began to turn the corner last season when it lost four TRAC games by one goal each and went to overtime in four others, losing one and tying three. The core of that team – Danielle Cedillo, Catalina Phe, Denissia Vega, Mia Castillo, Mandy Reyes, Peyton Kwalwasser, Carissa Wight, Nikki Crouch and Catalina Villegas – all returned this season and were joined by a talented cast of seven freshmen and two sophomores. “I have known for a while that my program was growing,” Gillette said. “But you don’t always get the recognition until you win, so it was nice that we won. Even though we’ve always been the underdogs, you can build and win. That’s something the players will take with them for a long time.”
- She said it: “She is an unbelievable coach. I believe without a doubt that with any other coach, the Clovis East program could not be where it is today. She pushed me harder than any other coach I’ve had before, and she makes sure you are prepared for an opportunity when it comes your way.” – Clovis East junior Peyton Kwalwasser, the Tri-River Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
The Bee’s Girls Soccer All-Stars
- Jasmine Aguirre, junior, midfielder, Edison
- Taylor Alkire, junior, forward, Strathmore
- Ashtyn Bracamonte, senior, forward, Central
- Franchelle Cabral, senior, midfielder, Bullard
- Kayla Calmes, senior, defender, Clovis West
- Ruby Campa, junior, forward, Firebaugh
- Alyssa Castillo, senior, defender, Redwood
- Mia Castillo, junior, midfielder, Clovis East
- Danielle Cedillo, junior, goalkeeper Clovis East
- Brooke Crisp, junior, forward, Redwood
- Nikki Crouch, junior, midfielder, Clovis East
- Emily Del Campo, senior, midfielder, Clovis West
- Jessica Dondlinger, junior, midfielder, Fowler
- Hallie Fernandes, junior, defender, Tulare
- Esmeralda Galarza, senior, midfielder, Tulare Western
- Jasmine Gaona, senior, goalkeeper, Madera
- Julianna Garcia, senior, defender, Bullard
- Peyton Garner, sophomore, forward, Yosemite
- Anissia Gonzalez, senior, forward, Madera
- Amethyst Harper, freshman, goalkeeper, Hoover
- Ally Holloway, junior, midfielder, Strathmore
- Sabrina Ibrahim, junior, midfielder, Madera South
- Sydney Kuma, freshman, forward, Caruthers
- Jaime Lewis, junior, defender, Liberty-Madera Ranchos
- Kylie Lucero, freshman, forward, Clovis
- Bethany Lucia, senior, midfielder, Fowler
- Christina Monreal, senior, defender, Buchanan
- Kim Montoya, senior, midfielder, Madera South
- Logan Pattie, junior, forward/midfielder, Clovis
- Kinlee Rix, senior, goalkeeper/forward, Sierra
- Ariana Rodriguez, junior, midfielder, Orosi
- Gabbi Rodriguez, junior, defender, Reedley
- Cassandra Sandoval, senior, midfielder, Lemoore
- Angelina Soto, senior, forward, Fresno
- Madeleine Stanley, senior, midfielder, Memorial
- Jaclyn te Velda, junior, defender, Central Valley Christian
- Katrina Thompson, senior, defender Clovis North
- Sara Vander Poel, senior, midfielder, Central Valley Christian
- Daisey Vicuna, senior, midfielder, Kingsburg
- Carissa Wight, senior, forward, Clovis East
- Anissa Wilson, senior, forward, Hoover
- Stacia Williams, junior, midfielder, Clovis
- Sophia Zertuche, senior, midfielder, Madera South
- Cecelia Zuniga, sophomore, midfielder, Mendota