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Norwalk girls soccer fading fast in Suburban League playoff race

By Loren Kopff

When the first round of the Suburban League girls soccer slate ended on Jan. 23, Artesia, Cerritos and Norwalk had identical 2-2-2 marks and were vying to stay alive for an automatic playoff berth. Knowing that La Mirada and Mayfair were going to claim the top two spots, the second half was going to be critical as one of the aforementioned teams could be sitting home for the postseason.

Last Friday, Cerritos put a dent in Norwalk’s postseason aspirations with a 1-0 victory. The lone tally came just two minutes into the contest when freshman midfielder Brianna Lizarraga went down the left sideline, sent a pass to freshman forward Kavitha George who crossed the ball over to sophomore forward Tobechi Udeh, who was standing by the far goal post. From there, she tapped in her 20th goal of the season past senior goalkeeper Cynthia Flores.

“That was the idea; we wanted to start strong,” said Cerritos head coach Tony Montalvo. “The idea was to [score] a couple of goals early and then from there, just handle the game. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way. We got one in and that was enough and that’s what we’re going to stay with.”

It would be one of three shots on goal the Lady Dons would get in the first half. Meanwhile, the host Lady Lancers managed just two shots in the entire game, the first coming in the 33rd minute. Norwalk was without the services of sophomore forward Jazmin Gomez, its top scoring threat, and one of its top midfielders, junior Andrea Anguiano, who has been sidelined all season. In addition, sophomore midfielder Breanna Sandoval was playing at less than 100 percent full strength due to an injury.

“In the end, I still have trust and belief in my team,” said Norwalk head coach Ernesto Escobedo. “I know that they can come in and step in for anybody. I think it’s more on the attacking. They bring something that not a lot of players have. They’re able to create and score from different areas.”

Cerritos had a chance to increase its lead in the 69th minute but sophomore midfielder Jessica Chen was unsuccessful with her shot. In the final minute, Norwalk freshman midfielder Misty Diaz had a chance to tie the game after stealing the ball from sophomore defender Erin Pierce. But her shot sailed over the left corner of the net.

“Cerritos came out a lot more physical and our team didn’t,” Escobedo said. “We didn’t meet their intensity and that’s where we lost the game.”

“[Norwalk] made a few adjustments and we couldn’t really figure it out,” Montalvo said. “What we were looking for was a counter attack and unfortunately, we didn’t have those opportunities.”

Norwalk (7-9-3 overall, 2-5-2 in league) would then lose to Artesia 1-0 in overtime this past Monday while Cerritos dropped a 6-1 decision to Mayfair. This past Wednesday, Artesia would pull away from Cerritos for third place with a 1-0 road victory over the Lady Dons.

The only goal came in the 78th minute when sophomore defender Alexis Gonzalez took a free kick from inside the penalty arc and two yards away from the penalty box. Her shot sailed into the upper left corner of the net. It was one of only four shots the Pioneers (10-4-5, 5-2-2) would take while Cerritos (11-6-3, 3-5-2) was held to five shots.

Artesia will host Bellflower today and can clinch third place with at least a tie. The Pioneers will then visit Mayfair on Tuesday and host La Mirada on Thursday. Cerritos will visit Bellflower on Tuesday and host last place John Glenn on Thursday and is in good shape for fourth place. Norwalk visits Glenn today, hosts La Mirada on Tuesday and travels to Bellflower on Thursday.

BOYS SOCCER

For the first time since Jan. 23, 2002, Artesia did not post a victory against Cerritos. The two ABC Unified School District rivals played to a 3-3 tie this past Wednesday. It’s also the first time the two schools have played to a tie. Artesia went to 6-9-6 overall, 3-4-2 in league and is barely holding onto fourth place. That spot will be decided on Tuesday when the Pioneers will host Mayfair.

Norwalk, which defeated Artesia 3-1 this past Monday, will visit La Mirada on Tuesday with first place on the line. The Lancers are 12-4-1 overall, 7-2 in league while La Mirada is 8-1. Norwalk has won five straight games on the field but had to forfeit a 4-1 win at Mayfair on Jan. 28.

Valley Christian tied Heritage Christian 1-1 last Friday to go to 6-7-1 overall and 4-0-1 in the Olympic League. The Crusaders can get closer to a league title with a road win over second place Maranatha today. V.C. will host Village Christian on Tuesday and Whittier Christian on Thursday.

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