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HS: Coast-to-Coast Challenge preview

Article Written by Sheldon Shealer
Published: September 3, 2015

Players from Maria Carrillo’s girls soccer team reported to school Thursday morning, but it was no ordinary school day.

Instead, they gathered at the Santa Rosa, Calif., public school at 5 a.m. to catch a bus to the San Francisco airport for a trip to New Jersey that puts high school girls soccer in the national spotlight this weekend.

In the first-ever Coast-to-Coast Challenge, Maria Carrillo, the top-ranked team in the SIMA FAB 50 and owners of a 74-match undefeated streak, will take on SIMA FAB 50 No. 2 Immaculate Heart Academy (Township of Washington, N.J.) and No. 4 Northern Highlands (Allendale, N.J.). IHA is coming off a 22-0 season. Northern Highlands won a fourth straight state title last year and finished 22-1, losing only to IHA. Maria Carrillo went 22-0-1 en route to a fourth straight section title. 

Maria Carrillo faces Immaculate Heart on Friday at 4 p.m. EST and plays Northern Highlands on Saturday at 10 a.m. Northern Highlands is serving as host for the event. 

The full-match video will be available online following the matches.

The Newark Star-Ledger will provide live match coverage and TopDrawerSoccer will provide Twitter updates at ESRSoccer during the contests. More detail Star-Ledger coverage, including player video, can be viewed here

“We’re certainly excited, the team is excited and so is the school district,” Northern Highlands coach Tara Madigan said. “This is something special for girls high school soccer, to have three of the top teams in the country in one place at the same time is amazing.”

“We’re fired up,” Maria Carrillo coach Deb LaPrath said. “We go in respecting these teams. We’re very humble, very hungry, and it’s a good combination.”

Maria Carrillo, led by Santa Clara commit Madison Gonzalez, is 2-0 after outscoring its opponents 10-0. Gonzalez has three goals and two assists. Senior midfielders Maya Barton and Bria VarnBuhler have combined for five goals and one assist. Seniors Brooke Dunbar (Eastern Washington), Claire Howard (Montana), Alison King (Loyola Marymount) and Sydney Rickert, along with Gonzalez, where part of the Santa Rosa United ECNL team that qualified for the national championships last month.

This will be the season-openers for both IHA and Northern Highlands.

IHA’s lineup features national recruit Rebecca Jarrett, a sophomore, and senior Princeton commit Sophia Gulati. Northern Highlands’ roster includes Georgetown commit Casey Richards, Fordham commit Morgan Busacca and a pair of high-profile juniors in Notre Dame commit Eva Hurm and Boston College commit Julia Homan

The Coast-to-Coast Challenge was more than a year in the making.

LaPrath’s teams have traveled in the past, including visits to Maryland, Tennessee and playing top Oregon and Washington programs. But a trip to northern New Jersey was intriguing given the number of nationally ranked programs in the region. 

LaPrath and Madigan met while coaching the first High School Girls All-America match in 2013 in Raleigh, N.C., and talked about the idea.

“We talked about it two years ago, but I didn’t know how serious,” Madigan recalled. “Then Deb called and asked if we would host it and find a second team for them to play. That’s when I called Brandon [DaSilva, coach at IHA]. Once [IHA] gave us the green light we started putting it together.”

LaPrath said the event was more than a year in the making since the team needed to fundraise nearly $20,000 to cover the travel and expenses. 

While in New Jersey, Maria Carrillo players will have dinner with the Northern Highlands team and travel to New York City.

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