The Newport Harbor High girls’ soccer program saw its best overall player graduate when midfielder Emily Johnson, last season’s Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year, went off to UC Santa Barbara.
The Sailors, fresh off an 18-3-6 season, a Wave League championship and a CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinal appearance, now aim to defend their first league title since 1985-86. That they’re probably favored to do so speaks to the culture that fourth-year coach Justin Schroeder is creating, the idea that there can be a culture of winning not limited to a certain player.
Newport Harbor opens the season ranked No. 6 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll and returns 15 players from last season. Senior forward Sadie Pitchess, who shared the league MVP award with Johnson last season, is a four-year starter, as is senior forward Skylynn Rodriguez and senior defender Makenzie Trigo.
The Sailors’ defense is strong with pieces like seniors Nicole Laz, Jenna McConnaughey and Liz Peters returning, along with junior goalkeeper Jessica Gardner. Junior midfielder Reese Bodas is another dynamic player for the Sailors, who did lose team captain Sofia Velasquez to graduation in the midfield, along with Johnson.
“As long as we can figure out the midfield, I think we will be a solid team this year,” Schroeder said.