Girls basketball and soccer featured in CIF’s Dream Team

Julia Ruiz, Sports Editor

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Girls athletics dominated the 2011-2012 winter sports season as the varsity water polo, soccer, and basketball teams competed in their respective CIF divisions.  After the girls basketball team reached quarterfinals for the first time since 1995 and the girls soccer team won the CIF Division 5 championship for the first time, the LA84 Foundation presented five Vikings with a spot on CIF’s Team of the Year. Captain Rayana Villalpondo represents her basketball team while Player of the Year Claudia Lopez, Coach of the Year Rachel Godfrey, goalkeeper Adrianna Salazar, and midfielder Krista Velasco all represent their soccer team.

Senior Villalpondo made a first time appearance in Division’s 1A Team of the Year. The young point guard’s leadership and talent helped lead her team to the quarterfinals for the first time in seventeen years.

“I felt honored and proud to be a part of the Team of the Year,” Villalpondo said. “It’s an accomplishment to be among the top girls [in basketball] who’ll be attending Division I [universities].”

Goalkeeper Adrianna Salazar and midfielder Krista Velasco also made first time appearances for Division 5’s Team of the Year. After a rough start to their soccer season, reaching CIF did not seem possible. However, the young footballers did not give up hope on their fairly new team.

“It feels amazing [to form part of the Team of the Year],” Velasco said. “I didn’t know I could do it because during pre-season I didn’t think we’d make it far but it all came together for the team.”

Their coach, Rachel Godfrey, was also recognized with one of the highest honors: Coach of the Year. Godfrey first reached CIF in the 2007-2008 season where the team lost in the final. Similarly, last season, 2010-2011, the team missed the title in the final after losing in penalty kicks. For her third appearance in CIF, Godfrey was able to lead her girls to become champions.

“I am very happy for our coach,” Salazar said. “She contributes to the success of the team.”

Coach Godfrey now joins Coach Andrea Sims, who also won Coach of the Year after the girls varsity volleyball’s success earlier this year, as the two Viking coaches to be awarded so far for their hard work with their teams this season.

Player of the Year for Division 5 went to midfielder Claudia Lopez. This marks Lopez’s first year on varsity and already she has left her mark as one of the best. They young CIF champ almost singlehandedly led her team throughout the CIF finals as she scored a goal in every game.

“I’m really happy for her,” Salazar said. “She’s the one who took us to CIF. She lifted the entire team.”

The honors received by the young Vikings not only bring more respect for themselves but for Downey’s athletic department as a whole. With fall and winter sports’ CIF recognition, the upcoming spring teams have large shoes to fill.