By Ryan Maquiñana
Special to S.F. Examiner
The San Francisco Glens Soccer Club of USL League Two are proud to partner with the Examiner in featuring boys’ and girls’ high school soccer in The City.
Our inaugural SF Examiner Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year award was split in two, with both players’ vastly divergent stories emblematic of the talent overflow this season.
While Lauren Frohan led St. Ignatius to the top ranking in our SF High School poll, presented by SFGlens.com, as well as the West Catholic Athletic League title, Washington faltered early but roared back to make the CIF San Francisco Section playoffs behind Ella Bhat.
“We didn’t have a great start to the season,” Bhat said. When the Eagles’ non-league campaign started with a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Sacred Heart Cathedral and a subsequent ACL tear that knocked out key starter Kaylynn De Vivo for the season, it was hard to imagine matters would get worse.
After their CIF-SF schedule began with three straight defeats by a combined 11-1 margin, it would’ve been easy to mail in the rest of the season. Ever the optimist, Bhat refused to fold, as Washington had not yet been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.
“We had to take things one game at a time and continue to depend on each other,” the senior said.
Any hopes for a turnaround would also require some sacrifice. Bhat, who had been accustomed to playing defender, was forced into central midfield out of necessity.
“[Ella] played most of the season with a nagging back injury that may have slowed her down a bit in play, but she never let it keep her off the field,” said Eagles coach Dwayne Moore. “I have never had a player that was as thoughtful … and at the same time lead on the field as an example of how to get things done.”
Ultimately, Washington would claw its way back into a one-game showdown with Lincoln. With a playoff berth on the line, the Eagles won 3-2, completing the unlikely comeback.
“That was my favorite moment of the season,” said Bhat, who would end up leading Washington in goals and assists. “To see everyone celebrating and so happy was worth all the hard work to get there.”
Though their run would ultimately end in a 4-0 loss to Lowell in the first round, Washington had managed to salvage the season.
“What I love about soccer is that it’s able to bring people together,” said Bhat, a Sunset native. “I’m always going to take these memories wherever I go.”
On the other side of Golden Gate Park, what makes Lauren Frohan’s ascension in soccer so surprising is that she was the first in her family to even try the sport.
“I started when I was four-years old doing camps and I just loved the game and using my feet,” said the Pacific Heights native, who idolizes U.S. National Team star Tobin Heath. “It’s become a big part of my life.”
After rising through the club soccer ranks, she helped lead the Wildcats to prominence during her time in the Sunset, culminating in their dethroning of perennial power Archbishop Mitty en route to the WCAL crown.
St. Ignatius also advanced all the way to the Central Coast Section Open Division final, but ran into Mitty for the third time and was unlucky in the rubber match.
“Everyone in the WCAL is really good, and beating Mitty for the league was huge because we hadn’t done it since I was there,” she said. “Our mentality to put everything on the line every single game was what put us above everyone else, I thought.”
Like Bhat, Frohan began as a defender, before progressing up the field to midfielder and finally to forward. St. Ignatius coach Tracy Hamm had nothing but praise for her leading scorer, who notched nine goals.
“She’s a very technical player and good on the ball,” Hamm said. “Probably most important is that she doesn’t buckle under pressure. She always came through in the clutch.”
Now headed for the University of the Pacific, Frohan will test her mettle against NCAA Division I defenders next season.
“Everyone’s older and bigger in college, so I can definitely work on getting stronger,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
STILL TO COME: All-City First and Second Teams.
The San Francisco Glens’ USL League Two had four players from last season selected in the MLS SuperDraft, so come watch the next wave of local soccer stars this summer. From now until March 31, every season ticket purchase will come with a Limited Edition bobblehead of our new technical director Jimmy Conrad! Get yours now at sfglens.com/tickets.