Lady Golden Bears ready to roll in 2023
TEMECULA — Heading into the magical month of December, Temecula Valley High School’s girls’ soccer head coach Jennifer Guinn received news that would help end 2022 with a bang. After receiving the United Soccer Coaches award for the California State ‘Coach of the Year’ for large public schools this past August, she was just named as the Spring Mountain West United Soccer Coaches’ large public school ‘Coach of the year’ for the West Region.
Not only did Guinn get honored, but her assistant coach Laura Witz was named as the United Soccer Coaches West Regional ‘Assistant Coach of the Year’ for large public schools. United Soccer Coaches is a nationally recognized soccer organization. Colleges, high schools and club organizations all value them and mention them regularly, which makes this award that much more meaningful to the two coaches.
“To end the most magical year ever with these amazing awards is beyond an honor,” Guinn said. “To be nationally recognized throughout the United Soccer Coaches’ organization is overwhelming and I am extremely honored to be chosen by them.”
Guinn’s current squad is 10-3-2 on the season and ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section coaching polls. With the success they had earlier this year, winning their fifth straight Southwestern League title, a CIF-SS Division 1 title, and a CIF State Regional title, and ending the year with a 21-game win streak, well, the awards speak for themselves.
“Both awards are incredible, yet I know for sure that many hats wear these accomplishments,” she said. “The girls first and foremost created an incredibly driven environment with some huge goals, and they rose to everything that I, as well as my incredible staff, placed in front of them. All three of us on the sideline throughout the three titles earned in 2022 were instrumental in every step of the way. Coach Brittani Alfaro is passionate, knowledgeable, and was with us last season every step of the way. She deserves recognition as well and we are blessed to have her.”
As for Laura Witz, she has been an integral part of the Golden Bears program since Guinn became the head coach in 2014. Witz specializes in the psychological side of the athletes and supports them without bringing down the program from within. The extreme knowledge of the game comes from her past play, as well as coaching and supporting her five daughters who have all played at the college level.
“Without a doubt I recommend Coach Witz for her award. She has believed in my vision, and taught me many things as well,” Guinn admits. “I believe that assistant coaches can make or break a program, and Laura has always made it. Her compassion off the field as well as during matches has been a source of comfort for my athletes and she is someone they will look for and ask about if she was not present.”
The success Witz has had with the program lies in the results with participation in multiple league championships, three CIF Southern Section titles and two CIF State titles. Guinn also says she is always the one to let the girls know to rise to the occasion when it matters.
“I am beyond honored to receive this award,” Witz said. “I have always felt that I am the one blessed to be able to coach the game I love. I see the best in each player, find their strengths and let each one know how valued they are. Because every single person has something special to offer.”
“Coach Laura comes with so much encouragement and love that the girls strived to reach for the big moments that seemed far-fetched,” Guinn added. “She balances a lot in this program and I am blessed to have worked alongside her for the last nine years. Four huge titles together since 2018 is pretty awesome and I would not want to do it without her by my side.”
The awards will be handed out at a ceremony Friday, Jan. 13, in Philadelphia, which Guinn and Witz have made plans to attend. While their season will be in the second week of league play during that time, Guinn says she knows her staff is more than capable of stepping up and taking care of business on the field.
When discussing this year’s squad, Guinn says they are mixed with several returners that understand what it takes, and some very young talent that is getting a taste of Division 1 high school soccer.
“The girls all come from very high-level club teams and are developed by some of the best that this state has to offer,” Guinn said. “We are excited to see how they rise to all of the challenges faced in front of them. We had a great preseason run with our first plane ride and trip to Northern California. We learned a lot about each other and are excited to implement everything into the season and hopefully carry that throughout a playoff run.”
Highlight players to watch include Elizabeth Ludwig (senior GK, committed to Westmont); Zoe Willis (senior Center Back, SWL Defensive player of the year, committed to Cal State Long Beach); Cassidy Drago (sophomore Forward, leading in goals scored with 13 tallied); Sloane Phillips (freshman Middle, starting every match and coming in the middle creating some amazing build ups towards goal tallying multiple goals and assists).
“We know the work in front of us, the target on us, and with that, what it feels like to accomplish everything we did last year,” Guinn said. “We want to take all those emotions and channel them into hopefully the best 10 weeks ever. With that being said, we are taking everything one step at a time.”
The Golden Bears will open league play with a home match against Great Oak this week and have high hopes of winning a sixth straight title when the regular season ends Friday, Feb. 3, at Murrieta Mesa High School.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at email@example.com.