There's no question the 2016-2017 sports year for the San Pedro Prep Sports scene will go down as something historic considering this is the first time two schools in town captured a CIF championship via playoff format since Port Of Los Angeles High School became playoff eligible in 2011.
The 2012-2013 year had San Pedro High girls cross-country and POLA softball end as CIF-Los Angeles City Section champions to go along with POLA girls cross-country capturing their first CIF crown in 2012 along with San Pedro on the same day. In that same school year alone, Mary Star softball, POLA girls soccer and POLA girls volleyball all finished as CIF runner-ups in their respective divisions.
Then there's the 2013-2014 year when POLA baseball finally won its first CIF championship months after San Pedro boys cross-country won its sixth in November 2013. From there, San Pedro High had a dry period of not winning a CIF sports title after the 2013 boys cross-country team won. Same for POLA after their baseball triumph in June 2014.
So it goes without saying that the 2016-2017 San Pedro News Pilot Prep Sports Teams Of The Year goes to the lone two teams to end both dry spells in an exciting and dramatic way, CIF-LACS Division 1 champion San Pedro High softball and CIF-LACS Division 2 champion Port Of Los Angeles High girls soccer.
For San Pedro softball, it was almost by design, and truly it felt like it was their destiny considering their circumstances going into the 2017 season. And '17' was definitely their magic number considering they had 17 players on the roster, 13 of which seniors and juniors, and it took them 17 wins in 19 games from March 20 to the end just to get to their first CIF-LACS Division I final since 2009.
On Saturday, May 20, the Pirates were able to capture their 17th CIF-LACS title with a drama-filled 2-1 victory over Marine League rival Banning at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Yet the Pirates went on an improbable run to finish the year 25-9-1, ending 2017 on a hot note winning 18 of their final 20 games after starting the year 7-7-1 to get it done.
No one expected much out of San Pedro and third-year coach Robert Whitney at the start of the season considering the Pirates were on what seemed to be the lowest point of the storied program with three straight CIF-LACS Division 1 first round exits, which had never happened before.
Still, a team with an unshakable measure of confidence and belief in themselves would dig down deep and took care of business when it mattered.
An experienced team would guide the Pirates through the Marine League with a 9-1 mark, winning nine in a row after losing their league opener to Carson, and not only did they take both games in league against defending league champion Banning, they also made an improbable comeback in the rematch with Carson on April 6 for an eight-inning walk-off victory. Not to mention San Pedro also notched some nice wins in the South Bay against West Torrance, North Torrance, El Segundo, Peninsula and Palos Verdes.
In fact, San Pedro's only two losses in their final 20 games came in which the Pirates won three out of five games during Easter Spring Break at the Las Vegas Spring Jamboree Tournament in mid-April.
Pitcher Cindy Robles, Marymount California-bound catcher Andrea Cline, outfielder Andrea Trejo and infielders Ricki Justiniano and Deanna Gonzalez all had career senior seasons, while the emergence of junior outfielders Taiya Reyna and Kierah Murillo in critical moments down the stretch proved valuable for San Pedro. Also junior designated player and part-time outfielder Anessa Quiroz proved to be a great clutch performer in the playoffs as well.
Senior second baseman Mackenzie Winkle was a blue-collar performer, especially on defense where she committed just three errors in 35 games for the Pirates, the lowest ever in program history by a second baseman.
San Pedro would eliminate Lincoln, knock off Carson a second time in the quarterfinals, and then hold off San Fernando in the prior three rounds on three masterpiece performances in the circle from Robles before returning to championship glory.
In the case of POLA girls soccer, and fifth-year coach Javier Torres, it was a long time coming.
Ever since the program began in 2011, the Polar Bears flirted with greatness from the word 'go', reaching the semifinals all six years leading up to the 2016-2017 season, even reaching four CIF-LACS finals in Divisions 3 & 4 during the 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 seasons... only to come up empty handed with narrow, heartbreaking setbacks.
Their most devastating setback, a penalty-kick shootout loss to Northridge Academy in the 2016 Division 4 final after 110 minutes of grueling scoreless action, a game which POLA dominated 95 minutes of, would be the set up for their greatest comeback of all this past season.
Not playing as much games due to the recent addition of New West Charter in the Crosstown League, the Polar Bears again won the league for the seventh year in a row without a loss, going 13-0 with little to no problem at all.
And POLA did it with a devastating attack with six girls scoring ten or more goals the entire season in senior forward Anna Vidovich, junior midfielder Briana Mancilla, freshman midfielder Keely Bales, freshman forward Natalia Iniguez, sophomore forward Gisselle Mora and junior midfielder Britney Delgado scoring a combined 101 of the Polar Bears' school record 125 goals, 12 more than the 2015-2016 team.
Not to be outdone was freshman goalie Katelyn Viducic, who quietly produced 12 shutouts, and stellar defensive play from junior Crosstown League MVP Christy Messner, sophomore Kendall Dimson and senior Alyssa Medrano were also crucial points to the year.
POLA's only three regular season setbacks came in the San Pedro Lady Pirate Cup on December 21 & 23, 2016 which was the only time all season that the Polar Bears could play games outside of league play.
Being moved up from Division 4 to 2 due to competitive equity, it would provide POLA's most stiffest playoff challenge ever as they would now compete against schools with bigger enrollments, but they still did enough to earn the second overall seed to eliminate any doubts about their resolve and fire to finally bring home a CIF title.
In order POLA would eliminate Marshall, Van Nuys and San Fernando to reach their fifth CIF-LACS final on March 3 against top-seeded and undefeated Grant at Los Angeles Valley College, which made it basically a road game for POLA considering Grant High is right next door to LAVC, and the Lancers had the benefit of walking to the field across the street from their campus.
For 78 minutes the Polar Bears and Lancers were scoreless until Grant broke through for a 1-0 lead, but with 20 seconds left in regulation, the Stevens Institute Of Technology-bound Vidovich would save the day for POLA with a dramatic goal to force overtime. Vidovich's heroics eventually set up even more heroics from Mora, as her golden goal with two minutes to go in the second & final sudden death stanza gave POLA their long-awaited golden moment.
In all, the Polar Bears finished 18-4 after suffering a 3-1 loss in the CIF State Division III regional to eventual champion South Torrance, but they accomplished what they set out to do from the start of the season.
Even though San Pedro softball and POLA girls soccer both lose at least five seniors (seven for Pedro softball), both return a bevy of talent for 2018. In fact, Mancilla is only 12 career goals away from being just the second in CIF-LACS girls soccer history to reach the seemingly unreachable milestone of 100 career goals. Another possible historic moment to look for in the near future.
And with that, the 2016-2017 San Pedro Prep Sports Year is officially over. And what a year it was!
SAN PEDRO NEWS PILOT PAST PREP SPORTS TEAMS OF THE YEAR
2011-2012: San Pedro High School Football (12-1; CIF-LACS Division 1 semifinalists)
2012-2013: Port Of Los Angeles High School Softball (28-8; CIF-LACS Division 3 champions)
2013-2014: Port Of Los Angeles High School Baseball (14-9; CIF-LACS Division 3 champions)
2014-2015: Port Of Los Angeles High School Girls Soccer (22-4-2; CIF-LACS Division 4 finalists; CIF State regionals)
2015-2016: San Pedro High School Girls Soccer (20-2-3; CIF-LACS Division 1 semifinalists)