South High has gone heretofore unbeaten this season, thanks to team cohesion and plenty of senior experience. Above from left: Sayaka Ueda, Momoko Kaneda, Jessica Nakae and – sporting a nice shiner from a previous match – Anju Takei. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

UPDATE: South’s girls won their CIF Div. 4 second-round playoff match Tuesday against Warren in Downey, 2-1. The Spartans remain unbeaten with a record of 25-0 with six ties.

South advanced to Thursday’s Div. 4 Quarterfinal against Artesia.

The story below was originally published on Feb. 6, 2013.


Rafu Sports Editor

TORRANCE.–It seems as though they can hardly bear to allow even a single goal.

Or, maybe, their vocabulary has been stripped of the word “loss.”

The South Torrance High School girls’ soccer team is putting together one of the most dominant seasons in school history, having headed into Tuesday night’s match against Lawndale without a single defeat to mar their record.

They’re so good it’s almost scary. With their record of 20 wins  and six ties, the club shows no signs of late-season fatigue. Last week, the Pioneer League leaders jumped out to a 3-0 advantage over North before the chairs were warm, en route to a 5-1 decision.

Two weeks prior, they really put the screws on Centennial, running away with a 9-0 win. And that’s not their largest point outburst of the season, either. The unhappy recipient of that drubbing was Los Angeles High, who were on the wrong end of a 10-0 score.

Entering Tuesday, the Spartans had scored 73 goals, while allowing a paltry 15, and not allowing any opponent more than two.

Senior defender Samantha Nadeau said South’s success is all about cohesion. “We’ve been able to build chemistry as teammates.” (Photo courtesy Diane Nakae/South High)

After their win over visiting Marymount on a very chilly Jan. 12 – temps were in the upper 30s – some of the team’s seniors shared their thoughts on how they’ve managed to be so successful.

“We have found that playing together as a team is really the key,” said senior defender Anju Takei. “When we all think alike, on the same page, everything works.”

Fellow defender Sayaka Ueda agreed with Takei’s assessment.

“During practices and at pasta parties before games, I think we have the opportunity to bond together. Being close as friends and as a team is pretty important,” Ueda said.

To gauge the attitude with which South takes to the pitch, one need look no further than senior co-captain Jessica Nakae. The midfielder has played in all 26 matches, collecting  6 goals and 12 assists for 24 points.

“She’s amazing – good at soccer and lots of other things,” defender Momo Kaneda said of Nakae.

Nakae passed a great deal of the credit to head coach Brad Gomez, whom she said has had a very balanced approach to guiding his players.

“I think he wants us to go out and have fun, above all,” Nakae explained. “He understands that these are our high school years, and that we’re with all our friends, but at the same time, he expects us to be serious and focused at practice and in games, not just to show up and play around.”

Nakae conceded the fact that however serious the team has been, and despite a few close games, “It’s easy to have a lot of fun when you’re winning.”

For his part, Gomez cited his good fortune in fielding a squad of talented players with experience.

Nakae battles for the ball in the Spartans’ 3-0 win over Marymount on Jan. 12. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

“Having 15 seniors on the team is a big plus,” Gomez said. They’re not just seniors, they’re quality soccer players and outstanding young ladies. They’ve been building for the last three years to get where we are right now. It’s been a lot of hard work, not just here at South, but also on their club teams and travel teams, and in the classroom.”

Gomez added that his players are an exceptionally well-rounded group of students, regularly volunteering and participating in community activities.

“All those aspects and characteristics come together to help themselves, not only as a team, but in life,” he said.

After graduation, Nakae plans to attend the University of San Francisco, where she’ll continue to play soccer and study physical therapy or sports medicine. She isn’t looking too far into the future, but is open to perhaps one day getting a shot at joining the U.S. Women’s Soccer team.

“That would be really cool, but at this point, I don’t know if that’s going to happen,” she said. “Obviously, I’ll play in college, and if I ever got the chance to try out for the National Team, that would be really cool.”

Takei will be at Cal Poly Pomona in the fall. She plans to study kinesiology and try out for the soccer team.

Ueda and senior defender Samantha Nadeau are as of yet undecided about college, and Kaneda, whose parents are from Japan, would like to continue her studies in Tokyo.

After their win Jan. 12, the girls were chatting about the following  Monday, which was team photo day. They were simultaneously consoling and teasing Takei, who was sporting an unmistakable blackened right eye, sustained a few games earlier.

“That was somebody else’s head,” she said, wearing it as a kind of badge of honor.


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