"We're looking forward to the start [of league]," said Crescenta Valley Coach Jan Sakonju, whose team opens the defense of its league title against Burroughs at home at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. "From the very beginning, we recognized the potential of the team because of the athleticism of so many of the key members and the goal from Day One has been for us to work together, play hard and to play smart.
"Every game that we've played, we've made improvement. It hasn't been perfect; we've taken one step back and two steps forward, but, definitely, they're playing very well as a team and their defense has been clicking for a while."
The Falcons are currently ranked No. 1 in Division V and have to be considered the favorite once again in league in terms of depth and returning talent from the squad that reached the semifinals last season. Driver Alan Dearman and goalkeeper Rane Colvin are two of the top players in the division.
"For league, the way we see it is our biggest competition is going to be Crescenta Valley, of course," said Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook, whose team also advanced to the semis after finishing runner-up in league last year, and is scheduled to play Muir on Tuesday, which will reportedly not field a team this season. "It's a machine up there and every year they've got great players. From what we've seen of them so far it looks like they didn't slow down that much — they're looking really good."
But it was hardly a walkover for the Falcons last year, as they survived some close matches with Glendale and Hoover and had to go to overtime to beat the Nitros in the league championship tournament, and both Glendale-area squads have worked hard to get better in the offseason and in this year's nonleague period.