Leaders of two Catholic school championship soccer teams were named Players of the Year in their respective divisions by the CIF-Southern Section this week.

J.Serra’s Isabella D’Aquila and La Salle’s Celine Akroush earned POY honors after their teams won the CIF-SS Division 1 and 4 titles, respectively. Their coaches, Greg Baker of J.Serra and Sheima Berenji of La Salle, were named Coaches of the Year in their divisions.

For D’Aquila, it was her third straight selection as D-1’s top player, coinciding with the undefeated Lions’ third consecutive D-1 title and this year’s Southern California Regional Division I championship. The senior forward — headed for Santa Clara University — has previously been selected as the 2017-18 Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year and State Player of the Year, a high school All-American and a member of the U.S. National under-15 and under-17 girls’ soccer teams.

D’Aquila also earned her fourth straight selection on the Division 1 All-CIF-SS first team, as presented by the LA84 Foundation. Joining her were three J.Serra teammates (all juniors): forward Samantha Williams, defender Rachel Bastone and goalkeeper Ryan Campbell, as well as Santa Margarita senior defender Brianne Riley. Bastone, Campbell and Riley were repeat selections from 2018.

La Salle’s Akroush, a sophomore midfielder, was a key component in the Lancers’ march to the D-4 crown and the finals of the SoCal Division IV Regionals. Akroush is the third Lancer to earn POY honors, following Kari Umland (2001 and 2002) and Kasey Johnson (2007).

Also named to the D-4 first team were La Salle’s Sara Ybarra (sophomore forward), Anaise Mediano (senior forward) and Tatum Mediano (junior defender), and San Gabriel Mission senior midfielder Melissa Estrada, who in 2018 was a first-team Division 6 selection.

In all, 21 Catholic school players were represented on the seven CIF-SS divisional first teams. Selections included:

  • D-2: Katryn Goggins, Rosary sophomore forward.
  • D-3: Senior Jillian Willis and sophomore Madison Leroy, both forwards from Flintridge Sacred Heart’s SoCal Regional Division III champions, plus senior goalkeeper Lou Swander of Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks.
  • D-5: Stephanie Gallardo, St. Genevieve senior midfielder.
  • D-6: Iris Navarro, Pomona Catholic senior midfielder.
  • D-7: Mary Star of the Sea’s Kaya Lindberg junior goalkeeper; St. Bonaventure’s Leanne Stillman, junior defender, and Keira Bergman, freshman defender; and St. Mary's Academy’s Angelica Taylor, junior midfielder, and Gisselle Cruz, freshman forward.

Mike Nelson is the former editor of The Tidings (predecessor of Angelus News).

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