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Artesia finally opens the door to opportunity late against California

By Loren Kopff

BELLFLOWER GIRLS SOCCER VARSITY TOURNAMENT

BELLFLOWER-It started as early as the sixth minute but it took another 61 minutes before the Artesia girls soccer team saw the ball cross the goal line. Despite the Pioneers peppering California to the tune of 17 shots, they had to wait until the final 13 minutes of the game to notch a pair goals and escape with a 2-1 victory last Saturday afternoon in the championship game of the maroon bracket of the Bellflower Tournament.

Artesia head coach Octavio Marquez saw his team take six shots on goal in the first half and could have had his squad up by at least a 4-1, or even a 4-0 score by halftime. Six minutes into the game, junior forward Icseel Ortiz took a pass from senior forward Carolina Ornelas but missed an open net opportunity.

In the 14th minute, it was Ornelas who sped down the left sideline and took a point blank shot towards the near post only to see it go off to the side. The scoreless tie was broken in the 20th minute when Lizzie Ayson’s corner kick somehow found its way past sophomore goalkeeper Cyndie Trejo.

“It was a corner kick and our defender was guarding the pole and the goalie called her off,” Marquez said. “She moved out of the way and our goalie was out of position. It’s very unfortunate because that’s been our downfall.”

It would be one of two shots the Condors took in the first half, but the Pioneers continued to keep the pressure on. In the 30th minute, junior midfielder Stephanie Flores took and indirect free kick from Ornelas inside the penalty box only to see the shot saved. Four minutes later, a chance from senior forward Betty Gomez at the post was unsuccessful. Artesia also took five corner kicks in the first half but again, had nothing but persistence to show for its halftime deficit.

Artesia (9-3-1) came out strong in the second half as senior forward Angie Avila, known for her basketball skills, missed on a breakaway two minutes in. Three more golden chances from the 52nd to the 65th minute also went for naught but that all changed in the 67th minute when the speedy Ornelas cut through the California defense with some nifty moves and notched her team-leading 13th goal.

“It was very stressful as a coach,” Marquez said of the missed chances. “You get stressed but at the same time, you try not to show your frustrations to your players. I told them at halftime they had to keep working. We dominated the first half and even though we didn’t get any balls in the net, I told them it was going to come.”

Playing in its second tournament championship of the season but still searching for the school’s first preseason tournament championship, the Pioneers were looking for more and it came from an unlikely player. With four minutes remaining in the contest, Flores fed a pass to Avila who scored the game winner for her second tally of the season, both coming on the same day. Avila, who has played soccer in the past, is playing varsity soccer for the first time. She also scored in a 4-1 semifinal win over Cerritos earlier in the day as Artesia has now won six straight games, outscoring its opponents 22-5 during that time.

“She has a lot of speed up top,” Marquez said of Avila. “I’ve been giving her a lot of opportunities to get playing time. She’s gotten a lot better and it shows there. In the last three or four games, she’s had a chance in every game and she hasn’t been able to put one in. She came up big there and scored the winning goal.”

Little by little, Marquez is crossing off accomplishments from his to-do list. In addition to capturing the championship, the Pioneers won nine games outside of Suburban League action for the first time in school history. Still eluding Marquez is a league championship, a playoff victory and a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section title.

“It just shows the strides that our program has made over the past couple of years,” Marquez said. “Our ultimate goal is still to win a league championship and get over that hump to win our first playoff game. But going in and winning a tournament says a lot about where the program was to where it is now.”

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