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Leading a Division I destiny

Pace and Desmond haul in Coach of the Year honors after leading Sacred Heart to a CIF Southern Section Division I championship.

August 10, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk and Charles Rich, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com, charles.rich@latimes.com

The top high school coaches from the 2010-11 season were selected by the sportswriters of the Glendale News-Press.

1 Frank Pace and Kathy Desmond, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer: As longtime co-coaches of the highly regarded Tologs team, Pace and Desmond's considerable credentials prior to the 2010-11 campaign already included Mission League and CIF regional titles.

A CIF Southern Section Division I championship — the first for any team in the San Gabriel Valley or area history — was the only thing missing from the veteran duo's lustrous resume until Pace and Desmond were able to get the Tologs, who were Division II semifinalists the previous season, over the hump with a thrilling CIF Division I run, culminating in a 1-0 win over San Clemente in the championship game at Mission Viejo High on March 4.

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"When we were doing it, we were literally into that one practice, one-game-at-a-time mode," Pace said of the team's run that also included a 1-0 overtime win over host Esperanza in the semifinals on March 1. "Time has really given me a great respect for what it is we accomplished."

With senior leaders Alyssa Conti and Natalie Zeenni entrenched in the captains' roles and an experienced junior core, the Tologs and their coaches had been through the wringer before and rallied to each other's cause time and time again in the face of adversity this year.

"To play for them this year, it was good," junior forward Breanna Koemans said. "The junior class, my class, was with them for three years. By the third year, we kind of got used to them and they got used to us, so it was really easy to be coached by them. We knew what they wanted and what they expected from us and it made it really easy and really fun and I think that's why we had so much success this year."

Conti, a senior midfielder, struggled early in the match against Esperanza, but became the hero with a game-winning goal after Pace and Desmond decided to put her back in the game at the start of overtime.

"They look out for us, whether we're in school or on the field, no matter what," Conti said. "They want the best for us and I think the confidence they have in us really radiates through us and that gives us the power and the confidence in ourselves to keep going."

With playoff experience and hunger for a championship, the Tologs' roster was self-motivated, but also strong-willed and confident in its abilities, making coaching a challenge at times.

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