Randy Lilavois departs with heavy heart
Soccer coach who helped turn around Pasadena City College, South Pasadena programs leaving to take a high school job in Alabama.
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Credited with reshaping two struggling area high school programs, Randy Lilavois coached his final match with South Pasadena on Wednesday. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Lilavois, credited with reshaping two struggling area high school programs, coached his final match with South Pasadena on Wednesday, a 2-1 nonleague road defeat against Flintridge Prep at chilly Glendale Sports Complex. He did so with grace and dignity, evidenced by him meeting with the Tigers near a folding chair that was occupied by South Pasadena player Samantha Figueroa after she suffered an apparent knee injury with about 10 minutes remaining in the second half.
Lilavois delivered an emotional message before gathering up the team’s equipment and heading back with his players on the team bus after the Tigers dropped to 4-7 after advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division VI semifinals last season.
“I told them that they played a great game,” said Lilavois, who held the post with the Tigers since 2007 while also serving as the Pasadena City College’s women’s soccer coach and as a coach for the Crescenta Valley Soccer Club. “We’ve had a tough season with a lot of injuries, but I know they will turn it around in time for the Rio Hondo League.”
Lilavois, who previously coached the Crescenta Valley boys’ soccer team from 2005-07, will leave for Alabama on Thursday and will join his wife, Joelle, and two young daughters, ages 4 and 8. He won’t be gone from the game for too long, as he will coach the Grissom High girls’ soccer team in Huntsville in the spring.
Lilavois will reunite with his family in time to spend the holidays together before stringing together some ideas on how to put his stamp on Grissom, which finished second in its league last season.
“This is mainly about my family,” said Lilavois, the reigning All-Area Girls’ Soccer Coach of the Year. “My wife’s family retired there and she’s teaching there.
“I decided over the summer that I was going to move there. Originally, I was going to move there after the season ended [with South Pasadena]. I wanted to be with my family for Christmas, and, in October, I made the decision to leave here for there right before Christmas.”
Before he left, Lilavois made sure to greet many of his former players from the high school and club levels. At a nonleague girls’ contest between Crescenta Valley and La Salle on Friday, Lilavois made sure to have pictures taken with his former players.
It occurred to him that those would be some of the most difficult goodbyes he’d ever have to say.
“I know it’s going to be hard to walk away,” said Lilavois, who officially turned the South Pasadena program over to assistant Eva Dixon. “This is one of the toughest things I’ve had to do.
“It’s even harder to have to say goodbye to my players at South Pasadena in the middle of a season. There’s a lot of pride that’s been established here over the last six years.”
None more than last season when the Tigers reached the semifinals before suffering a 2-1 defeat against Hemet.
“That was a special team and we had a lot of fun,” said Lilavois, who guided Crescenta Valley to a playoff appearance in 2007 following a stretch in which the Falcons failed to qualify for the postseason the previous six seasons. “That was the highlight of my time here, going undefeated in league before going all the way to the semifinals.
“I’m confident Eva is the perfect person to take over the team. She was a four-year varsity player.”
The transition for Dixon doesn’t figure to be difficult. Dixon has served as Lilavois’ assistant the past three-plus seasons and has championship pedigree after helping the Tigers win a CIF crown in 2003 as a forward.
Many of the same philosophies that Lilavois began will be carried over to the next coaching regime.
“One of the things that’s been pivotal for us has been consistency,” said Dixon, a Cornell University graduate. “I want to keep that same face and we are making steps in the right direction.
“With Randy, he has so much passion. He made a lot of sacrifices with the team by spending extra time with the players or helping them out on the holidays. He cares about his players because they are like a family to him. Passion can drive an entire system.”
South Pasadena senior goalkeeper Angelique Ulmer, a three-year varsity athlete, concurred.
“He’s built this program up and made me want to win that much more,” said Ulmer, who finished with four saves against Flintridge Prep. “We loved his dedication and appreciate it.
“Last year was the best time for us. He’s more than a coach to me. He’s made me a better person.”
Lilavois hasn’t ruled out returning to the area late next summer. There’s a possibility he will continue to coach at Pasadena City College, which qualified for the Southern California Regionals for the first time since 2007.
“That’s my plan,” Lilavois said. “Right now, the focus is on being together with my family.”