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ALL-AREA GIRLS SOCCER: Sutter's Linch named Player of the Year
If there were a soccer equivalent to a gym rat, Sutter High's Erika Linch certainly would fit the bill.
From strength and conditioning training during the summer, to competing for her local traveling team, to long workouts at Elite Fitness in Yuba City, Linch does all the things necessary to become better at the game she loves and simply doesn't believe in downtime.
Her high school season runs from November until the end of February, and once that's over, she plays for Yuba Sutter FC until the end of September.
Soccer is a year-round sport for Linch, and her strong work ethic has helped her become one of the most prolific goal scorers the area has ever seen.
"She has the athletic ability, but it all goes back to her commitment level," said Sutter coach Jeff Stanhope. "She works hard to be the best she can be and it's her commitment to the game that puts her above everybody else."
The numbers certainly back that up.
During a remarkable junior season this past winter, Linch led the Huskies to their eighth consecutive Northern Section title by scoring a remarkable 66 goals in just 23 games — an astounding number that is believed to be a section record.
The Butte View League MVP scored three or more goals in 14 games during the course of the season, including a seven-goal performance against Live Oak on Dec. 3.
She also doled out a team-best 15 assists and ended the season with 138 career goals, shattering the previous school record of 100 set by Jaymi Hill in 2010 — and she still has another year left to add to those gaudy statistics.
"I like the intensity and the challenge of competition, and the adrenaline rush that comes along with it," Linch said. "I go 100 percent the whole time to get things done for my team because they're doing the same.
"It's all about my team and my school. It's not about me."
Linch picked up the sport as a 4-year-old and has being going hard at it ever since. Now, she's matured into a goal-scoring machine and has been honored as the Appeal-Democrat's All-Area Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
"She just gets it. She sees the whole field, and when she doesn't play well or we lose, she gets frustrated," Stanhope said. "She makes her team better by just being out there on the field."
Linch's work ethic goes well beyond just the physical aspects of the game, too.
To gain a different perspective on the sport, she decided to take classes, earning her referee and coaching licenses in May.
"I did it to understand more of the game," she said. "It opens up your mind and I'm able to help out my teammates in a more comprehensible way.
"Eventually, I want to coach at a university, and I had to start somewhere."
Of course, it's Linch's physical attributes that put her over the top. She's grown to just under 6 feet tall and is often the biggest, strongest and fastest player on the field.
She also assumed a leadership role for the relatively young Huskies, as eight freshmen saw significant playing time during the year.
"I did my best to be a leader," she said. "I'm not a yeller, so I more or less lead by example."
Now, she'll have another role to fill. With her strong right leg, Linch plans on helping out on the gridiron this fall when she will compete for the kicking duties on the Huskies' football team.
Sutter football coaches said she's been knocking in field goals from 45 yards out during offseason conditioning.
"A lot of people doubted me, and that gave me the drive to want to do it more," Linch said of playing football with the boys. "I'm not a chicken."
Oregon, Nevada and San Francisco State have all taken interest in Linch, but she has verbally committed to attend Minot State University in North Dakota, where she will play for former Sutter and Yuba College coach Jason Spain.
"I've spent time there and I like the campus," Linch said. "My major's there and I've made a lot of friends on the team already."
As for her aspirations for next season?
"I would like to hit 200 career goals," she said. "That would be another 60 or so goals, and I'm hoping I can do it again."
Nubia Ruiz, senior, goalkeeper, Yuba City
Ruiz's excellent timing and ability to play the ball in the air lifted her to the top of the list as the area's best net-minder.
She was a Tri-County Conference first-team pick and was a key reason why Yuba City won a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff game for the first time in eight years.
Jenna Lewis, junior, defender, Sutter
The Huskies posted 10 shutouts and allowed a little over one goal per game this season, and the All-BVL selection was vital to that success.
Called the "heart" of Sutter's defense by coach Jeff Stanhope, Lewis solidified the Huskies' backline and was on the spot to turn back many potential scoring opportunities.
Ellie Yang, junior, defender, Lindhurst
A two-time All-Golden Empire League selection, Yang was named the Blazers' team MVP as a junior.
Her solid play on the backline was one of the few bright spots for a Lindhurst team that finished 1-10-1.
Makayla Synak, senior, defender, Marysville
Although Marysville struggled to win games this year, the two-time All-GEL pick stood out in each game and was named the Indians' MVP after a strong senior campaign.
This is Synak's second consecutive All-Area first-team selection.
Cassidy Fix, junior, midfielder, Yuba City
Fix helped anchor the midfield for the Honkers, where she dished out six assists while earning All-TCC accolades.
Coach Rene Villegas called her the "quarterback" of the squad and her ability to distribute the ball to her team's scorers was instrumental to Yuba City's success.
Kayla Treanor, senior, midfielder, Yuba City
The Honkers' leading scorer as a sweeper, Treanor did a little bit of everything for Yuba City while being named the TCC's Most Valuable Player.
She finished the year with nine goals and four assists, but it was her knack to score up front and dominate on the backline that made her a force to be reckoned with.
This is the second All-Area first-team selection for Treanor, who is headed to Dominican University on a scholarship next season.
Stephanie Munguia, junior, midfielder, Colusa
An All-Sacramento Valley League selection, Munguia helped lead the RedHawks to their fourth consecutive Northern Section title by scoring six goals and dishing out five assists.
"She just has a knack for the game," Colusa coach Randy Watt said of Munguia, who was a great distributor of the ball on offense as well as an excellent defender.
Kelsey Graham, junior, midfielder, Sutter
Graham controlled flanks for the Huskies as an outside midfielder where she handed out 10 assists and scored three goals while earning All-BVL honors.
She started the plays on offense, and her accurate crosses found Linch's head or feet for several goals.
Clarissa Herrera, junior, midfielder, Live Oak
An All-SVL selection as a junior, Herrera established herself as one of the area's top all-around players this season with her strong footwork and vision.
This is the second All-Area first-team selection for Herrera, who was also one of the best passers in the area.
Kayla Howard, sophomore, forward, Yuba City
Although small in stature, the lightning-quick Howard scored eight goals and dished out five assists while being named All-TCC as a sophomore.
Perhaps the area's fastest player in the area, Howard should provide the Honkers with plenty of scoring punch for the next two years.
Lexi Aguilar, senior, forward, River Valley
Despite playing with two injured ankles, Aguilar emerged as the Falcons' top playmaker and was the team's only All-TCC selection.
A skilled passer, Aguilar held her ground and fought for every ball while finding the back of the net four times this season.
Jayden Garcia, junior, forward, Sutter
The Huskies' second-leading scorer behind Linch, Garcia gave Sutter a prolific 1-2 scoring punch by tallying 30 goals and dishing out 14 assists as a junior.
The All-BVL selection also played everywhere on the field, from striker, to midfielder to sweeper to even goalkeeper.