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LEONARD ORTIZ , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Aliso Niguel's varsity girls soccer starting midfielders, Remy Mathews, left, and Maddi Desiano.

Aliso Niguel's Mathews, Desiano fast-rising stars in O.C. soccer

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Aliso Niguel soccer coach Randy Dodge is as much a fixture as any other figure in the Southern California soccer scene.

Since taking over the Wolverines’ girls program in 1997, he has witnessed his fair share of greatness. His teams have seen and produced a lengthy list of pro-level talents. That group includes Allison Scurich, Zaneta Wyne, Kim Devine, Stacy Lindstrom, Rachel Wood and Ashley Bowyer.

So when Dodge doles out words of praise, people pay attention. He has such things to say about his center midfielders, Maddi Desiano and Remy Mathews.

“I think Maddi and Remy are really putting themselves in elite company as far as some of the best players that have ever come through here the last 20 years,” Dodge said.

Neither is approaching the end of her career with the Wolverines, but it’s not hard to understand why they have made that kind of impression on their coach.

Both have a great passion for and commitment to the game. Combine that with growing up in south Orange County, a hotbed of soccer, and the scene was set for new stars to emerge.

Desiano and Mathews joined well-known club teams to kick off their soccer careers. Their exposure to high-level competition at a young age helped develop their games and made jumping into the heat of the South Coast League fairly ordinary.

“There are so many good players,” Mathews said of the area. “They’ve always pushed me to work harder and become a better player. I think the opportunities that we get playing a high level in club, they translate to high school.”

Mathews joined West Coast Futbol Club in her U-9 season. Last year, she won a national championship with her U-16 team.

Mathews is the Wolverines’ leading scorer with seven goals and 12 assists through 17 games. She recently committed to Rice University.

The junior has been a three-year starter for the Wolverines, a remarkable feat in itself on a stacked Aliso Niguel squad, and especially so when one recognizes the contrasting style of play from her club team. The junior slots in as a holding-center midfielder for the Wolverines, who play a far more aggressive, attacking style in comparison to the possession approach of her club.

“It’s just like two different mindsets for me,” Mathews said. “I have a possession mindset and an attacking, go-forward mindset. We’re going to move the ball forward, and we’re going to let our players and forwards run.”

Integration into the Wolverines’ lineup came more naturally for Desiano, who had grown up watching Aliso Niguel games. She was on the So Cal Blues, where Dodge also coaches, by age 8.

The sophomore was primarily a defender when she entered high school, but an injury to the team’s midfield forced her into a position change. Desiano had never been short on confidence, and she saw the midseason adjustment as an opportunity to grab a leadership role on the team.

“Toward the end of last year and then this year, I said that I have to attack,” Desiano said. “I feel like every game is a continued opportunity to become a better player and a stronger competitor.”

Desiano, 15, has become a leader as a sophomore. The second-year midfielder has four goals and three assists. She has come on strong in league play, registering a goal and an assist in a 3-0 victory over Dana Hills.

“She’s very deceptive. People don’t realize how good she is one on one,” said Dodge, who called Desiano the flashier of the two players. “She’s been fantastic. She’s just a competitor that works so hard.”

Desiano swells with Aliso Niguel pride, eager to make amends for the team’s second-round exit in the 2015 CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs against Long Beach Wilson.

“We definitely have a reputation to uphold. A lot of tradition comes from Aliso,” she said. “I think that the leaders that we have, and the places that they are going to go after high school, motivates us to say, ‘This is the year to do it.’”

Behind the work of their dominant midfielders, the Wolverines are primed to make a deep run in CIF play. Aliso Niguel is undefeated at 13-0-4 overall and 4-0-1 in the South Coast League. The Wolverines are currently ranked second in the county.

“Because of their passion and commitment for this program, they’re not going to let this program fail,” Dodge said of Mathews and Desiano. “They will do everything to compete. They always do.”


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