Oh, what could have been.
The Clovis East High girls soccer team was set to return 15 players – including reigning Bee Player of the Year Peyton Kwalwasser and All-Bee selections Nikki Crouch, Danielle Cedillo and Mia Castillo – from a team that went 20-1-3, captured the school’s first Tri-River Athletic Conference and Central Section Division I titles and advanced to the CIF Southern California Regionals last season.
But before the season started, two key returners – forwards Crouch (Clovis East’s leading goal scorer last season) and Ariah Cheng – each torn their anterior cruciate ligaments while playing over the summer.
And then, during back-to-back games early in the TRAC schedule, Kwalwasser, a midfielder, and defender Senna Ryland tore their ACLs, forcing Timberwolves coach Jasara Gillette to scramble to reconfigure her lineup for the second time this season.
“If you're looking at our team with Nikki and Peyton, the chance to run the table again was there,” Gillette said. “We’ve been managing expectations, and finding out our formation. It was like back to preseason.”
We’ve been managing expectations, and finding out our formation. It was like back to preseason.
Clovis East girls soccer coach Jasara Gillette on the injury loss of four significant players from last season’s Central Section Division I championship team.
Undeterred, Clovis East (10-6-1) will chase a second straight section title after drawing the No. 6 seed for the D-I playoffs in pairings announced Saturday.
No. 1 seeds went to Clovis (D-I), Memorial (D-II), Mission Oak (D-III), Kingsburg (D-IV), Fowler (D-V) and Rosamond (D-VI) in girls and Clovis (D-I), Golden West (D-II), Ridgeview (D-III), McLane (D-IV), Chavez (D-V) and Mendota (D-VI) in boys.
The playoffs begin Feb. 14 for the girls and Feb. 15 for the boys, with the quarterfinals on Feb. 16 (girls) and Feb. 18 (boys), semifinals on Feb. 21 and finals Feb. 24-25.
Clovis East will open at home against No. 11 Centennial in the first round.
Co-captains Castillo and Catalina Villegas have helped fill the experience void for the Timberwolves, who have also had freshmen Mackenzie Madrone, Isabella Keomounpane and Ashley Gardner step into more prominent roles.
“I think our biggest thing is just having the belief,” Gillette said. “Big people are gone and people have to step up. But we are a talented program and we have to believe we can. We’ve had to build that confidence back up again.”
On the boys side, Clovis is seeking its first section title in 21 years after beating out defending D-I champion Buchanan for the No. 1 seed.
The Cougars have beaten the Bears in two of three matches this season, but lost the most recent, 4-0 on Feb. 3.
Clovis has been building for a run at the section title since bringing up the core of this year’s team – seniors Jacob Hinrichs, Jeff Battaion, Alex Martinez, Robert Cervantes and Braedon Rouff and juniors Evan Ghimenti, Hugo Mendoza, Rueben Martinez, Tyler Hensel and Ian Cardozo – when they were sophomores and freshmen.
“The roles seemed like they were reversing a little,” Clovis coach Danny Amparano said of his Cougars and Buchanan, the three-time defending champs. “But you can never count out the champ. To be a champ, you have to go beat a champ, it’s pretty simple. We’re still climbing.”
To be a champ, you have to go beat a champ, it’s pretty simple. We’re still climbing.
Clovis boys soccer coach Dannny Amparano on his team’s quest to unseat Buchanan as Central Section Division I champions.
Clovis received a first-round bye and awaits the winner between No. 8 Central and No. 9 Sunnyside in the quarterfinals.
Other defending champions include South (D-II), Ridgeview (D-III), McLane (D-IV), McFarland (D-V) and Mendota (D-VI) in boys and Madera South (D-II), Liberty-Madera Ranchos (D-III), Strathmore (D-IV), Fowler (D-V) and Frazier Mountain (D-VI) in girls.
Central Section soccer playoffs
Feb. 14 opening-round matches
No. 9 Clovis West No. 8 Stockdale; No. 11 Centennial at No. 6 Clovis East; No. 10 Central at No. 7 Bullard. Byes: No. 1 Clovis, No. 2 Buchanan, No. 3 Liberty-Bakersfield, No. 4 Clovis North, No. 5 Frontier.
Feb. 16 quarterfinals: No. 5 Frontier at No. 4 Clovis North
No. 9 Highland at No. 8 Tulare Western; No. 12 Central Valley Christian at No. 5 Sanger; No. 13 Madera at No. 4 El Diamante; No. 14 Monache at No. 3 Madera South; No. 11 Edison at No. 6 Garces; No. 10 Bakersfield at No. 7 Tulare. Byes: No. 1 Memorial, No. 2 Redwood
No. 9 Golden West at No. 8 Yosemite; No. 10 Tehachapi at No. 7 Ridgeview. Byes: No. 1 Mission Oak, No. 2 Independence, No. 3 Hanford, No. 4 Reedley, No. 5 Hoover, No. 6 Liberty-Bakersfield
Feb. 16 quarterfinals: No. 5 Hoover at No. 4 Reedley; No. 6 Liberty-Bakersfield at No. 3 Hanford
No. 9 Foothill at No. 8 Fresno; No. 12 Sierra at No. 5 Exeter; No. 13 Roosevelt at No. 4 Wasco; No. 10 Mira Monte at No. 7 McLane. Byes: No. 1 Kingsburg, No. 2 Bakersfield Christian, No. 3 Strathmore
No. 9 Lindsay at No. 8 Dos Palos; No. 12 McFarland at No. 5 Shafter; No. 13 Delano at No. 4 Kern Valley; No. 14 Kerman at No. 3 Woodlake; No. 11 Kennedy at No. 6 Bishop; No. 10 Coalinga at No. 7 Washington. Byes: No. 1 Fowler, No. 2 Orosi
Feb. 16 quarterfinals: No. 8 Fresno Chirstian at No. 1 Rosamond; No. 5 Mendota at No. 4 Granite Hills; No. 6 Firebaugh at No. 3 Arvin; No. 7 Farmersville at No. 2 Frazier Mountain
Feb. 15 opening-round matches
No. 9 Sunnyside at No. 8 Central; No. 12 Clovis West at No. 5 Liberty-Bakersfield; No. 13 Clovis East at No. 4 Golden Valley; No. 11 Bullard at No. 6 Clovis North; No. 10 West at No. 7 Centennial. Byes: No. 1 Clovis, No. 2 Buchanan, No. 3 Bakersfield
No. 9 East Bakersfield at No. 8 Stockdale; No. 11 Selma at No. 6 Reedley; No. 10 Tulare Western at No. 7 Sanger. Byes: No. 1 Golden West, No. 2 Edison, No. 3 South, No. 4 El Diamante, No. 5 Redwood
Feb. 17 quarterfinals: No. 5 Redwood at No. 4 El Diamante
No. 9 Wasco at No. 8 Memorial; No. 12 Roosevelt at No. 5 Madera South; No. 13 Tulare at No. 4 Fresno; No. 14 Foothill at No. 3 Independence; No. 11 Mt. Whitney at No. 6 Mission Oak; No. 10 Highland at No. 7 Porterville. Byes: No. 1 Ridgeview, No. 2 Dinuba
No. 9 Parlier at No. 8 Orosi; No. 11 Garces at No. 6 Mira Monte; No. 10 Delano at No. 7 Shafter. Byes: No. 1 McLane, No. 2 Arvin, No. 3 Kerman, No. 4 Lindsay, No. 5 Washington
Feb. 17 quarterfinals: No. 5 Washington at No. 4 Lindsay
No. 9 Granite Hills at No. 8 Bishop; No. 12 Riverdale at No. 5 Rosamond; No. 11 Farmersville at No. 6 Fowler; No. 10 Caruthers at No. 7 Liberty-Madera Ranchos. Byes: No. 1 Chavez, No. 2 Sierra, No. 3 McFarland, No. 4 Coalinga
No. 9 Frazier Mountain at No. 8 Minarets; No. 10 Fresno Christian at No. 7 Orange Cove. Byes: No. 1 Mendota, No. 2 Avenal, No. 3 Strathmore, No. 4 Exeter, No. 5 Firebaugh; No. 6 Central Valley Christian
Feb. 17 quarterfinals: No. 5 Firebaugh at No. 4 Exeter; No. 6 Central Valley Christian at No. 3 Strathmore