The start of league play this week will test JSerra boys soccer coach Erik Kirsch’s belief that the Lions can top the success they had last season.

A year ago, the Lions finished second in the Trinity League, with an 8-2 league record, behind Servite. They advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship game in which they lost to Servite 2-1.

The Lions lost to graduation four seniors who were named to the All-CIF Southern Section Division 1 team.

This season? So far, so good.

JSerra took a 5-0 record into Wednesday’s Trinity League-opening home game against Mater Dei. The Lions are No. 1 in the combined CIF-SS rankings for Divisions 1 and 2; Servite is ranked No. 2. JSerra defeated No. 3 Mira Costa 5-1 last month, although the Mustangs were not at full strength at the time.

The Lions play at Santa Margarita in a league game Friday.

“Last year we had a lot of success,” Kirsch said Wednesday morning. “We got to the Division 1 final, but it was just that the culture … We had good culture but it was not a solid culture.”

Kirsch initiated a “Culture Champions” movement in JSerra’s boys soccer program. He has seen it make a positive impact already.

Kirsch said the team is getting outstanding leadership from defenders Keenai Braun and Andy Garcia, midfielder Sidney Dina and striker Reagan Heslin. His descriptions of each are “anchor of our defense” for Braun, “hard worker who connects everything” for Garcia, “heart of the team” for Dina and “relentless work ethic” for Heslin.

“We’ve got a close-knit group with strong energy,” Kirsch said. “What you’re seeing from us is a blue-collar team with a refined soccer IQ, a team that’s hungry to get some titles.”

JSerra’s two league games against Servite are Jan. 13 at JSerra and Jan. 31 at Servite.


The CIF-SS Divisions 1 and 2 rankings have Santa Ana Valley at No. 4, Valencia at No. 6, Godinez at No. 7 and Sunny Hills at No. 10. Santiago is No. 1 and Corona del Mar is No. 2 in the Division 4 rankings. …

Sunny Hills’s 9-0-3 record includes wins over Valencia, Santa Ana Valley and Godinez. …

Villa Park won the championship of the Marina Holiday Cup. The Spartans (8-5-2) defeated Fullerton (10-1-1) in the final on penalty kicks, 4-3. The score was 1-1 at the end of regulation. A tournament MVP was not selected, but if there was one Villa Park coach Fidel Alatorre said he would have nominated junior forward Alan Leon. …’s CIF Southern Section leaderboards show that Villa Park’s Leon, Armon Haghighat of University and Joe Moyer of Servite each have nine goals this season.