TEMECULA – It was a question of “when” and not “if” for Natalie Mitchell.
“We always knew she was amazing, but as an upperclassman she was like a whole different player,” Temecula Valley coach Jennifer Guinn said.
Mitchell’s senior season propelled Temecula Valley to new heights as she topped the scoresheet game after game as the Golden Bears won both the CIF South Division I title and the championship CIF Southern California Division I Regional.
“It was like a dream. Especially within the group, we haven’t stopped talking about it,” said Mitchell, who was selected IE Varsity Women’s Soccer Player of the Year.
Mitchell had 35 goals and 15 assists in a 26-game campaign that ended with a 21-game winning streak and seven straight playoff wins.
“(Mitchell) is a stallion. She led us in midfield the two times we played,” Santiago coach Mike Fleming said. The Sharks defeated Temecula Valley 2-1 in a preseason non-league game but lost the rematch, 2-0, in the state playoffs.
A tactical change early in the season allowed Mitchell to see more of the ball in the final offensive phase of the game as reigning Southwest League MVP Kate Jacobsen consistently drew multiple defenders.
“Teams have tried to shut down (Kate) so that opened me up a lot, and she’s also really good at passing the ball to me when there’s a lot of people on her,” Mitchell said.
Temecula Valley allowed a second-half goal in the 2-1 home loss to Santiago on December 13. It was a turning point in the season as the Golden Bears would not lose again.
“I think we all really trusted each other,” Mitchell said. “We were really close this year – that helped – and we all really worked on playing for each other.”
Guinn added: “The girls got together and decided they wanted something special for this season. Natalie’s score gave us the punch we needed to believe in ourselves.
The Golden Bears cruised to an 8-0 win in their next game and swept the Southwest League game, beating league opponents 43-2 on their way to 100 total goals in all competitions this season.
“It was a team effort, but I believe Natalie deserves all the awards she receives,” Guinn said.
Selected CIF-SS Division 1 Player of the Year, Mitchell accepted a full scholarship to East Carolina University in Greenville, NC
“Greenville is a lot like Temecula, which is funny,” Mitchell said. “There’s a lot to do, but there’s also a small town feel, with lots of community sports which I enjoy, and the weather is great.”
Located near one of the nation’s soccer centers in North Carolina, Mitchell will have the opportunity to learn, grow, and showcase their talents in a soccer-rich environment.
“(ECU) is a really good program and they’re on the rise,” Mitchell said. “I wanted to be a part of that and see if I could help build something too, and so when they reached out it all fell into place.”
With the “if” removed, it all becomes a matter of “when”.
Coach of the Year: Malick Mbengue, Webb
When Malick Mbengue took over from Webb in 2017, the Gauls were reeling from the departure of former coach Cle Kooiman, a legend of the United States men’s national team. Kooiman and Webb had just won three consecutive league titles and an appearance in a CIF Southern Section final, but Mbengue only built on Kooiman’s success. The Gauls recently completed a rare perfect 20-0-0 season that culminated in the CIF-SS Division 6 and CIF-State Southern California Division V regional championships – the school’s premier section and regional crowns.
IE FIRST TEAM VARSITY
GK: Gianna Bonnett, Claremont, Sr.
GK: Elizabeth Ludwig, Temecula Valley, Jr.
D: Brooklyn Antonucci, Etiwanda), Jr.
D: Haley Clark, Santiago, Sr.
D: Sierra Nickelberry, Etiwanda, Sr.
D: Zoe Willis, Temecula Valley, Sr.
M: Peyton Bundy, Temecula Valley, Sr.
M: Mia Casey, Los Osos, Jr.
M: Krystal Medina, Santiago, So.
M: Natalie Mitchell, Temecula Valley, Sr.
M: Camryn Vehlow, Temecula Valley, Jr.
F: Lindsey Chau, Citrus Valley, Sr.
F: Abigail Cook, Webb, Jr.
F: Kate Jacobsen, Temecula Valley, Sr.
F: Kaitlyn Taylor, Santiago, Sr.
IE VARSITY SECOND TEAM
GK: Noe Chock, Webb, Jr.
GK: Peyton Reynoso, Patriot, Sr.
D: Sophia Emerson, Claremont, Jr.
D: Katie Ritter, Arlington, Sr.
D: Alyssa Taylor, Riverside Poly, Sr.
D: Julie Thrapp, Temecula Valley, P.
M: Madeline Hood, Arrowhead Christian, So.
M: Adi Juarez, Los Osos, Jr.
M: Arianna Lehman, Yucaipa, Jr.
M: Leilani Lepe, North, So.
M: Unieque Solis, San Gorgonio, Sr.
F: Bridget Arnold, Hemet, Jr.
F: Zuhayle Diaz, Bloomington, Sr.
F: Kalea Eichenberger, Etiwanda, Sr.
F: Lavinia Vaipulu, North, Sr.