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Santa Clarita Blue Heat: Looking for more

Santa Clarita Blue Heat aim high in second season

Posted: May 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.

There's a different feeling surround the Santa Clarita Blue Heat women's soccer team.

It's entering its second season in the Santa Clarita Valley after transferring from Ventura.

It's made the jump to professional status.

It has a whole new coaching staff.

And it's aiming higher than just getting wins; it's looking to playoffs.

"This year, everybody expects a lot," said team owner Carlos Marroquin. "People know who we are around the whole country already."

The Blue Heat finished 3-5-2 in the United Soccer Leagues' W-League in 2010. The team had 19 players on the roster. Only four are back this year fighting for time on a team of 31, including international and NCAA Division I athletes.

"Our attitude is just to come out and play hard," said new head coach Fabian Sandoval. "Attack with 11 players and defend with 11 players."

At the forefront of that attack is one of the team's biggest offseason acquisitions, Portugal's national team captain Edite Fernandes.

Fernandes, who also plays for Atlético Madrid of Spain, is expected to provide an offensive punch for a team that only scored six total goals last season. She leads a group of experienced forwards including two-time Big South Player of the Year at Charleston Southern Marky Boyce as well as Ann Marie Tangorra, Shannon Brooks and Melissa Fernandez.

"For me, it's a great opportunity and the team," Fernades said. "There's a lot of young players. With my experience, I'm only trying to help them. I hope to do the best for the team and the club. We're trying to get first or second place and get to the playoffs, and I'll do my best."

Backing her up is a large group of local talents, including former Foothill League players of the year and Saugus graduates Brielle Slepicoff and Shasta Fisher.

Other past Foothill Leaguers include Canyon grads Beth Barker, Elvia Contreras and Katie Russ, Hart grad Kayla Kret and former Centurion Rachel Gillis.

Contreras and Barker both played for the College of the Canyons last season.

"It's good experience," said Slepicoff, a defender and senior-to-be at Cal State Northridge. "I played for a different league last year, but the W-League is a step up. There are girls from all over."

The starting lineup is far from final, said Sandoval, but players like midfielder Julie Melrose from Scotland (Rangers FC) and defender Brook Beeson, the team's captain, are also expected to play big roles on the team.

Meanwhile, Cynthia Jacobo (CSUN), Anjuli Ladron de Guevara (Mexican national team) and Haley Hawes (CSUN) are battling for the top goalkeeper spot, with Jacobo as the perceived frontrunner.

"The caliber of player is higher," Beeson said. "We've got a lot more players, a lot of really talented players."

The mix of youth and experience has added to the overall team dynamic, Beeson added.

The team has only had a few practices together, but heads into today's season opener against the Victoria Highlanders optimistic.

"We definitely do have the potential to be a good team," Fisher said.

Today's game begins at 7 p.m. at Valencia High School.



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